Metagenomic approaches are now commonly used in microbial ecology to study microbial communities in more detail, including many strains that cannot be cultivated in the laboratory. Bioinformatic analyses make it possible to mine huge metagenomic datasets and discover general patterns that govern microbial ecosystems. However, the findings of typical metagenomic and bioinformatic analyses still do not completely describe the ecology and evolution of microbes in their environments. Most analyses still depend on straightforward sequence similarity searches against reference databases. We herein review the current state of metagenomics and bioinformatics in microbial ecology and discuss future directions for the field. New techniques will allow us to go beyond routine analyses and broaden our knowledge of microbial ecosystems. We need to enrich reference databases, promote platforms that enable meta- or comprehensive analyses of diverse metagenomic datasets, devise methods that utilize long-read sequence information, and develop more powerful bioinformatic methods to analyze data from diverse perspectives.
2016 by Japanese Society of Microbial Ecology / Japanese Society of Soil Microbiology / Taiwan Society of Microbial Ecology / Japanese Society of Plant Microbe Interactions.