Dispersal is simply defined as the movement of species across space and time. Despite this terse definition, dispersal is an essential process with direct ecological and evolutionary implications that modulate community assembly and turnover. Seminal ecological studies have shown that environmental context (e.g., local edaphic properties, resident community), dispersal timing and frequency, and species traits, collectively account for patterns of species distribution resulting in either their persistence or unsuccessful establishment within local communities. Despite the key importance of this process, relatively little is known about how dispersal operates in microbiomes across divergent systems and community types. Here, we discuss parallels of macro- and micro-organismal ecology with a focus on idiosyncrasies that may lead to novel mechanisms by which dispersal affects the structure and function of microbiomes. Within the context of ecological implications, we revise the importance of short- and long-distance microbial dispersal through active and passive mechanisms, species traits, and community coalescence, and how these align with recent advances in metacommunity theory. Conversely, we enumerate how microbial dispersal can affect diversification rates of species by promoting gene influxes within local communities and/or shifting genes and allele frequencies via migration or de novo changes (e.g., horizontal gene transfer). Finally, we synthesize how observed microbial assemblages are the dynamic outcome of both successful and unsuccessful dispersal events of taxa and discuss these concepts in line with the literature, thus enabling a richer appreciation of this process in microbiome research.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Microbiology (medical)