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Our research addresses the structural and functional organization of microbial communities in relation to the ecological processes of decomposition and element cycling. Every year the earth’s plants and algae produce about 100 billion tons of organic matter. And every year, virtually the same amount of organic matter is decomposed back into carbon dioxide, completing the global carbon cycle. A great deal is known about autotrophs and the primary production process, but comparatively little about osmotrophic bacteria and fungi, and the processes by which they decompose organic matter. There are several reasons for this asymmetry. One is that it is difficult to study microorganisms in their natural environments: the soil, water, and sediment. Another is that decomposition is a symbiotic process that emerges only at the community level, unlike primary production, a process resident in each individual autotroph. Another contrast is that decomposition is largely a prokaryotic process, engaging most of the biodiversity of the planet, while primary production is primarily a eukaryotic process, limited to a small fraction of biodiversity. Finally, the decomposition of a cohort of organic matter typically extends across a considerable range of time and space, integrating ecosystems and obscuring origins and fates.
Dr. Robert L. Sinsabaugh

Associate Professor

Department of Biology University of New Mexcio 167A Castetter Hall Albuquerque, NM 87131 (505) 277-3407

Click Here to see the Dissolved Organic Matter Process Cycle