We live in a symbiotic world. Virtually all plants and animals are inhabited by a community of symbiotic microbes that together with their hosts form entities called metaorganisms. Historically, most ecological research has focused on biotic interactions such as predation and competition. However, these metaorganisms in turn engage in an integrated and synergistic cooperation with other (meta)organisms more often than previously thought. The resulting symbiome, a community of integrated metaoganisms, acquires characteristics inherent to the ecosystem where it is established, developing to climax under the environmental conditions of its habitat.
Host-microbe interactions have cascading effects on the physiology and ecology of the metaorganism. The symbiome, in turn, affects the biogeochemistry and the functioning of its ecosystem. By integrating across biological scales and maintaining an environmental context, our research aims to determine the capacity of metaorganisms to shape their ecosystems and to withstand and adapt to a changing marine environment.