Multistability and regime shifts in microbial communities explained by competition for essential nutrients

Veronika Dubinkina, Yulia Fridman, Parth Pratim Pandey, Sergei Maslov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microbial communities routinely have several possible species compositions or community states observed for the same environmental parameters. Changes in these parameters can trigger abrupt and persistent transitions (regime shifts) between such community states. Yet little is known about the main determinants and mechanisms of multistability in microbial communities. Here, we introduce and study a consumer-resource model in which microbes compete for two types of essential nutrients each represented by multiple different metabolites. We adapt game-theoretical methods of the stable matching problem to identify all possible species compositions of such microbial communities. We then classify them by their resilience against three types of perturbations: Fluctuations in nutrient supply, invasions by new species, and small changes of abundances of existing ones. We observe multistability and explore an intricate network of regime shifts between stable states in our model. Our results suggest that multistability requires microbial species to have different stoichiometries of essential nutrients. We also find that a balanced nutrient supply promotes multistability and species diversity, yet make individual community states less stable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere49720
StatePublished - Nov 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience


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