Linking species composition to overall ecosystem function in communities of multiple species

Natural ecosystems harbour a great diversity of species and are stabilised through various interactions. A theoretical framework exists that describes species interaction: the competitive niche exclusion principle. This principle postulates that niches are shaped by ecological opportunity and that each niche can only be occupied by one species only. Niches are created by balanced inter-species interactions and species’ interactions with the environment. Theoretical predictions on the role of functional interactions for species’ niche formation have not been rigorously tested experimentally, because in most ecosystems these interactions are too complex to study in a controlled setting. of this ecosystem.


  • Map the niches in the microbial community of Mabisi by establishing the links between species composition and functionality of microbes in Mabisi
  • Experimentally test predictions from the Competitive Niche exclusion principle on the role of species composition, environment and the degree of co-existence on community stability in the laboratory
  • Validate the outcomes of the laboratory tests in field settings
  • With these data, to refine current ecological models based on our experimental data  


We will use Mabisi, as a model system to test which factors, such as species composition, type of interspecies interactions, environmental conditions or the degree of long-term co-existence, define the community stability. This ecosystem harbours a relatively simple microbial community containing six to eight abundant species of bacteria and yeasts. The levels of complexity in the Mabisi ecosystem are relatively low, allowing us to explore mechanisms driving community stability and dynamics. Our pilot studies have incorporated a combination of newly available molecular techniques and bioinformatic analyses to determine species-composition dynamics during long-term propagation and provide a link between Mabisi microbial composition and the functionality

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