Microbial Community Resilience across Ecosystems and Multiple Disturbances

Laurent Philippot, Bryan S. Griffiths, Silke Langenheder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


The ability of ecosystems to withstand disturbances and maintain their functions is being increasingly tested as rates of change intensify due to climate change and other human activities. Microorganisms are crucial players underpinning ecosystem functions, and the recovery of microbial communities from disturbances is therefore a key part of the complex processes determining the fate of ecosystem functioning. However, despite global environmental change consisting of numerous pressures, it is unclear and controversial how multiple disturbances affect microbial community stability and what consequences this has for ecosystem functions. This is particularly the case for those multiple or compounded disturbances that occur more frequently than the normal recovery time. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of the mechanisms that can govern the responses of microbes to multiple disturbances across aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. We first summarize and discuss properties and mechanisms that influence resilience in aquatic and soil biomes to determine whether there are generally applicable principles. Following, we focus on interactions resulting from inherent characteristics of compounded disturbances, such as the nature of the disturbance, timing, and chronology that can lead to complex and nonadditive effects that are modulating the response of microorganisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00026-20
JournalMicrobiology and molecular biology reviews : MMBR
Issue number2
Early online date31 Mar 2021
Publication statusPrint publication - 19 May 2021


  • aquatic
  • compounded
  • disturbance
  • microbial communities
  • resilience
  • soil
  • terrestrial


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