Quantifying the contribution of microbial immigration in engineered water systems

Ran Mei, Wen Tso Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Immigration is a process that can influence the assembly of microbial communities in natural and engineered environments. However, it remains challenging to quantitatively evaluate the contribution of this process to the microbial diversity and function in the receiving ecosystems. Currently used methods, i.e., counting shared microbial species, microbial source tracking, and neutral community model, rely on abundance profile to reveal the extent of overlapping between the upstream and downstream communities. Thus, they cannot suggest the quantitative contribution of immigrants to the downstream community function because activities of individual immigrants are not considered after entering the receiving environment. This limitation can be overcome by using an approach that couples a mass balance model with high-throughput DNA sequencing, i.e., ecogenomics-based mass balance. It calculates the net growth rate of individual microbial immigrants and partitions the entire community into active populations that contribute to the community function and inactive ones that carry minimal function. Linking activities of immigrants to their abundance further provides quantification of the contribution from an upstream environment to the downstream community. Considering only active populations can improve the accuracy of identifying key environmental parameters dictating process performance using methods such as machine learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number144
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 6 2019


  • Engineered water systems
  • Mass balance
  • Microbial immigration
  • Microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantifying the contribution of microbial immigration in engineered water systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this