Indexed on: 10 May '16Published on: 10 May '16Published in: Trends in Microbiology
Microorganisms play key roles in terrestrial system processes, including the turnover of natural organic carbon, such as leaf litter and woody debris that accumulate in soils and subsurface sediments. What has emerged from a series of recent DNA sequencing-based studies is recognition of the enormous variety of little known and previously unknown microorganisms that mediate recycling of these vast stores of buried carbon in subsoil compartments of the terrestrial system. More importantly, the genome resolution achieved in these studies has enabled association of specific members of these microbial communities with carbon compound transformations and other linked biogeochemical processes-such as the nitrogen cycle-that can impact the quality of groundwater, surface water, and atmospheric trace gas concentrations. The emerging view also emphasizes the importance of organism interactions through exchange of metabolic byproducts (e.g., within the carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles) and via symbioses since many novel organisms exhibit restricted metabolic capabilities and an associated extremely small cell size. New, genome-resolved information reshapes our view of subsurface microbial communities and provides critical new inputs for advanced reactive transport models. These inputs are needed for accurate prediction of feedbacks in watershed biogeochemical functioning and their influence on the climate via the fluxes of greenhouse gases, CO2, CH4, and N2O.