Navigating in a sea of genes

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Science  01 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6367, pp. 1129-1130
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar3431

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Marine microbes are the ultimate ecosystem engineers; they shape their environment through a tight coupling of interactions and feedback loops between metabolic activity and the physical environment, generating a tapestry of oceanic biogeochemical gradients that vary over space and time (1). It is this microbially mediated cycling of chemical elements in the global ocean that makes Earth habitable for most other organisms, including humans. On page 1149 of this issue, Coles et al. (2) report the development of a coupled physical-biological model that simulates the impact of microbial activities on biogeochemistry in the North Atlantic. The results suggest that gene function rather than species identity drives community assembly and, ultimately, biogeochemical gradients.