Emily J. Zakem, Martin F. Polz and Michael J. Follows (2020), Redox-informed models of global biogeochemical cyclesNature Communications, doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-19454-w


Microbial activity mediates the fluxes of greenhouse gases. However, in the global models of the marine and terrestrial biospheres used for climate change projections, typically only photosynthetic microbial activity is resolved mechanistically. To move forward, we argue that global biogeochemical models need a theoretically grounded framework with which to constrain parameterizations of diverse microbial metabolisms. Here, we explain how the key redox chemistry underlying metabolisms provides a path towards this goal. Using this first-principles approach, the presence or absence of metabolic functional types emerges dynamically from ecological interactions, expanding model applicability to unobserved environments.