Scaling up microbial mechanisms from molecule to global scale: Data guide models or models inspire experiments?
Microbes are the real driver for soil biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nutrients, therefore, investigation of microbes and their functions is fundamental for understanding global biogeochemistry and its feedbacks to the climate system through greenhouse gas flux. Although the microbial mechanisms occur at molecule scale, ecosystem functions climatologists concern most could be only directly measured at spatial scales ranging from plot and regional scale, and even further be computed at global scale. How to scaling up the knowledge from micro-scale to macro-scale is a critically important while challenging task.
Experiments and models have been widely used to study microbial processes at various scales; the latest advances in experimental and modeling communities for microbial mechanisms are valuable for integrating knowledge at distinct scales to develop a generic understanding of the microbial mechanisms. Some model developments have been stimulated by experiments, while model-inspired experiments is another important approach for ecological research. This paper reviews the progress of scaling microbial mechanisms from molecule to global scales. A few examples will be used to demonstrate how data has been used to guide model development and how model-inspired experiments has been applied. These two methods will be in parallel for investigating multiple microbial processes, communication and collaboration between experimentalists and modelers should be highly encouraged for studying microbial mechanisms across various scales.