From Community Structure to Functions: Metagenomics-Enabled Predictive Understanding of Temperature Sensitivity of Soil Carbon Decomposition to Climate Warming. DOE, 2013-2016. (Co-PI, PI: Jizhong Zhou, University of Oklahoma)

Understanding the responses, adaptations and feedback mechanisms of biological communities to climate change is critical to project the future state of the earth and climate systems. Although a siginificant amount of knowledge is available on the feedback responses of aboveground communities due to the challenges in analyzing the soil microbial community structure and functions. Thus, the overall goal of this study is to provide system-level, predictive mechanistic understanding of the temperature sensitivity of soil carbon decomposition to climate warming by using cutting-edge integrated metagenomic technologies. Toward this goal, the following four objectives will be pursued: (i) to determine phylogenetic composition and metabolic diversity of microbial communities in the temperate grassland and tundra ecosystems; (ii) to delineate the responses of microbial community structure, functions, and activities to climate change in the temperate grassland and tundra ecosystems; (iii) to determine the temperature sensitivity of microbial respiration in soils with different mixtures of labile versus recalcitrant carbon, and the underlying microbiological basis for temperature sensitivity of these pools; and (iv) to synthesize all experimental data for revealing microbial control of ecosystem carbon processes in response to climate change. The results obtained in these two important ecosystems (grassland and tundra) could have the potential to contribute to the formation of US policies regarding climate change. Also, the development of new experimental and mathematical tools (GeoChip, network analysis, data deconvolution and assimilation) will greatly advance microbiologists' capabilities for integrating and synthesizing metagenomics data. In addition, discovery of new genes and metabolic pathways will provide a resource for biotechnology applications, such as conversion of plant biomass to biofuels.