Recent advances in molecular microbial ecology and systems biology enhance insight into microbial community structure and functioning. They provide conceptual and technical bases for the translation of species-data and community-data into a model framework accounting for the functioning of and interactions between metabolic networks of species in multispecies environments. Function-directed and single cell-directed approaches supplement and improve metagenomics-derived community information. The topology of the metabolic network, reconstructed from a species' genome sequence, provides insight into its metabolic environments and interactions with other microorganisms. Progress in the theoretical and experimental analysis of flux through metabolic networks paves the way for their application at the community level, contributing to understanding of material flows between and within species and their resilience toward perturbations. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.