Applying landscape genetics to the microbial world

Rachael Y. Dudaniec*, Sylvie V. M. Tesson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalComment/opinionpeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Landscape genetics, which explicitly quantifies landscape effects on gene flow and adaptation, has largely focused on macroorganisms, with little attention given to microorganisms. This is despite overwhelming evidence that microorganisms exhibit spatial genetic structuring in relation to environmental variables. The increasing accessibility of genomic data has opened up the opportunity for landscape genetics to embrace the world of microorganisms, which may be thought of as 'the invisible regulators' of the macroecological world. Recent developments in bioinformatics and increased data accessibility have accelerated our ability to identify microbial taxa and characterize their genetic diversity. However, the influence of the landscape matrix and dynamic environmental factors on microorganism genetic dispersal and adaptation has been little explored. Also, because many microorganisms coinhabit or codisperse with macroorganisms, landscape genomic approaches may improve insights into how micro- and macroorganisms reciprocally interact to create spatial genetic structure. Conducting landscape genetic analyses on microorganisms requires that we accommodate shifts in spatial and temporal scales, presenting new conceptual and methodological challenges not yet explored in 'macro'-landscape genetics. We argue that there is much value to be gained for microbial ecologists from embracing landscape genetic approaches. We provide a case for integrating landscape genetic methods into microecological studies and discuss specific considerations associated with the novel challenges this brings. We anticipate that microorganism landscape genetic studies will provide new insights into both micro- and macroecological processes and expand our knowledge of species' distributions, adaptive mechanisms and species' interactions in changing environments.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3266-3275
    Number of pages10
    JournalMolecular Ecology
    Issue number14
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


    • dispersal ecology
    • ecological genomics
    • landscape genetics
    • macroorganisms
    • microorganisms
    • species interactions


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