The decomposition of soil organic matter (SOM) is a critical process in global terrestrial ecosystems. SOM decomposition is driven by micro-organisms that cooperate by secreting costly extracellular (exo-)enzymes. This raises a fundamental puzzle: the stability of microbial decomposition in spite of its evolutionary vulnerability to “cheaters”—mutant strains that reap the benefits of cooperation while paying a lower cost. Resolving this puzzle requires a multi-scale eco-evolutionary model that captures the spatio-temporal dynamics of molecule-molecule, molecule-cell, and cell-cell interactions. The analysis of such a model reveals local extinctions, microbial dispersal, and limited soil diffusivity as key factors of the evolutionary stability of microbial decomposition. At the scale of whole-ecosystem function, soil diffusivity influences the evolution of exo-enzyme production, which feeds back to the average SOM decomposition rate and stock. Microbial adaptive evolution may thus be an important factor in the response of soil carbon fluxes to global environmental change.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)