Multi-stability and the origin of microbial community types

Publication type: 
Didier Gonze, Leo Lahti, Jeroen Raes & Karoline Faust

Gonze, D. et al. (2017) Multi-stability and the origin of microbial community types.  The ISME Journal (doi:10.1038/ismej.2017.60)


The study of host-associated microbial community composition has suggested the presence of alternative community types. We discuss three mechanisms that could explain these observations. The most commonly invoked mechanism links community types to a response to environmental change; alternatively, community types were shown to emerge from interactions between members of local communities sampled from a metacommunity. Here, we emphasize multi-stability as a third mechanism, giving rise to different community types in the same environmental conditions. We illustrate with a toy model how multi-stability can generate community types and discuss the consequences of multi-stability for data interpretation.

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The ISME Journal