Natural microbial communities are composed of a large diversity of interacting microorganisms, each with a specific role in the functional properties of the ecosystem. The objectives in microbial ecology research are related to identifying, understanding and exploring the role of these different microorganisms. Because of the rapidly increasing power of DNA sequencing and the rapid increase of genomic data, main attention of microbial ecology research shifted from cultivation-oriented studies towards metagenomic studies. Despite these efforts, the direct link between the molecular properties and the measurable changes in the functional performance of the ecosystem is often poorly documented. A quantitative understanding of functional properties in relation to the molecular changes requires effective integration, standardization, and parallelization of experiments. High-resolution functional characterization is a prerequisite for interpretation of changes in metagenomic properties, and will improve our understanding of microbial communities and facilitate their exploration for health and circular economy related objectives.