The metagenomic signatures of impacted environments: Unravelling the microbial community dynamics in ecosystem function

Author: Renee Jade Smith

Smith, Renee Jade, 2012 The metagenomic signatures of impacted environments: Unravelling the microbial community dynamics in ecosystem function, Flinders University, School of Biological Sciences

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Microbes are largely responsible for the turnover of energy and matter and are thus, integral players in ecosystem functioning. Despite the increasing awareness of the importance of microbial communities, there is still a critical lack of information on the complex relationship between microbial communities and the environment. Metagenomic analysis is thought to yield the most quantitative and accurate view of the microbial world, greatly increasing our ability to generate microbial profiles of the changing world. These methodologies have led to the growing interest in understanding and forecasting microbial responses to anthropogenic disturbances. This thesis investigates the microbial responses to two common forms of pollution, agricultural modification and hydrocarbon impact, to determine to what extent the resident microbial communities may be effected by introduced contaminants. The reoccurring theme of this thesis has been that major shifts in the structure and function of the resident microbial communities was observed following environmental change. Moreover, this thesis demonstrated that the microbial communities inhabiting impacted environments exhibited markedly different community responses based on contaminant type, allowing for the discrimination of their metagenomic signatures. This thesis provides detailed insight into how environmental change affects the inhabiting microbial consortia, and for the first time, demonstrates how the overall metagenomic signature can be used to detect and assess the extent to which anthropogenic disturbances have altered our planet.

Keywords: Anthropogenic,metagenomics,microbial ecology

Subject: Biological Sciences thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2012
School: School of Biological Sciences
Supervisor: Jim Mitchell