Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Fifty important research questions in microbial ecology

Lookup NU author(s): Dr William ReidORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Microbial ecology provides insights into the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of microbial communities underpinning every ecosystem on Earth. Microbial communities can now be investigated in unprecedented detail, although there is still a wealth of open questions to be tackled. Here we identify 50 research questions of fundamental importance to the science or application of microbial ecology, with the intention of summarising the field and bringing focus to new research avenues. Questions are categorised into seven themes: Host-Microbiome Interactions; Health and Infectious Diseases; Human Health and Food Security; Microbial Ecology in a Changing World; Environmental Processes; Functional Diversity; and Evolutionary Processes. Many questions recognise that microbes provide an extraordinary array of functional diversity that can be harnessed to solve real world problems. Our limited knowledge of spatial and temporal variation in microbial diversity and function is also reflected, as is the need to integrate micro- and macro-ecological concepts, and knowledge derived from studies with humans and diverse other organisms. Certain methods remain inadequate and currently limit progress in the field. Although not exhaustive, the questions presented are intended to stimulate discussion and provide focus for researchers, funders, and policy makers, informing the future research agenda in microbial ecology.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Antwis RE, Griffiths SM, Harrison XA, Aranega-Bou P, Arce A, Bettridge AS, Brailsford FL, deMenezes A, Devaynes A, Forbes KM, Fry EL, Goodhead I, Haskell E, Heys C, James C, Johnston SR, Lewis GR, Lewis Z, Macey MC, McCarthy A, McDonald JE, Florez NLM, O'Brien D, Orland C, Pautasso M, Reid WDK, Robinson HA, Wilson K, Sutherland WJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: FEMS Microbiology Ecology

Year: 2017

Volume: 93

Issue: 5

Pages: 1-10

Print publication date: 01/05/2017

Online publication date: 03/04/2017

Acceptance date: 31/03/2017

Date deposited: 04/04/2017

ISSN (print): 0168-6496

ISSN (electronic): 1574-6941

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/femsec/fix044


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name