Karen C. Abbott, Maarten B. Eppinga, James Umbanhowar, Mara Baudena, James D. Bever, Franciska de Vries

71
Oct 4, 2021
Ecology Letters
DOI :
10.1111/ele.13891
Article
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Microbiome influence on host ecology has been investigated using classical ecological theory which represent mechanistic interactions, but are difficult to evaluate empirically. Alternatively, host–microbiome feedback theory represents microbiome dynamics impacts on host fitness as simple net effects, but are easily amenable to experimental evaluation. We conceptually integrate these two frameworks by deriving expressions for net feedback in terms of mechanistic model parameters, thereby merging mechanistic understanding with experimental tractability. Microbiomes have profound effects on host fitness, yet we struggle to understand the implications for host ecology. Microbiome influence on host ecology has been investigated using two independent frameworks. Classical ecological theory powerfully represents mechanistic interactions predicting environmental dependence of microbiome effects on host ecology, but these models are notoriously difficult to evaluate empirically. Alternatively, host–microbiome feedback theory represents impacts of microbiome dynamics on host fitness as simple net effects that are easily amenable to experimental evaluation. The feedback framework enabled rapid progress in understanding microbiomes’ impacts on plant ecology, and can also be applied to animal hosts. We conceptually integrate these two frameworks by deriving expressions for net feedback in terms of mechanistic model parameters. This generates a precise mapping between net feedback theory and classic population modelling, thereby merging mechanistic understanding with experimental tractability, a necessary step for building a predictive understanding of microbiome influence on host ecology.

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