University of Massachusetts Amherst, United States
The fate of soil carbon hinges on microbial responses to climate change. Adaptation (an irreversible evolutionary response) introduces novel, heritable traits into microbial communities. These adaptive traits have cascading effects on ecosystem function, but soil complexity hinders our ability to disentangle ecological and evolutionary responses. Environmentally-explicit culture collections, including the DeAngelis Lab’s Harvard Forest LTER isolates, are invaluable resources. Our culture collection microbes link genome variation directly to physiology, and provide an unparalleled opportunity to identify adaptive traits and quantify evolutionary rates. In a field dominated by culture-independent methods, green thumb approaches will transform our understanding of soil carbon-climate feedback.