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Spatial and Temporal Biogeography of Soil Microbial Communities in Arid and Semiarid Regions

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      Microbial communities in soils may change in accordance with distance, season, climate, soil texture and other environmental parameters. Microbial diversity patterns have been extensively surveyed in temperate regions, but few such studies attempted to address them with respect to spatial and temporal scales and their correlations to environmental factors, especially in arid ecosystems. In order to fill this gap on a regional scale, the molecular fingerprints and abundance of three taxonomic groups – Bacteria, α-Proteobacteria and Actinobacteria – were sampled from soils 0.5–100 km apart in arid, semi-arid, dry Mediterranean and shoreline Mediterranean regions in Israel. Additionally, on a local scale, the molecular fingerprints of three taxonomic groups – Bacteria, Archaea and Fungi – were sampled from soils 1 cm–500 m apart in the semi-arid region, in both summer and winter. Fingerprints of the Bacteria differentiated between all regions (P<0.02), while those of the α-Proteobacteria differentiated between some of the regions (0.01<P<0.09), and actinobacterial fingerprints were similar among all regions (P>0.05). Locally, fingerprints of archaea and fungi did not display distance-decay relationships (P>0.13), that is, the dissimilarity between communities did not increase with geographic distance. Neither was this phenomenon evident in bacterial samples in summer (P>0.24); in winter, however, differences between bacterial communities significantly increased as the geographic distances between them grew (P<0.01). Microbial community structures, as well as microbial abundance, were both significantly correlated to precipitation and soil characteristics: texture, organic matter and water content (R2>0.60, P<0.01). We conclude that on the whole, microbial biogeography in arid and semi-arid soils in Israel is determined more by specific environmental factors than geographic distances and spatial distribution patterns.

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        Soils harbor enormously diverse bacterial populations, and soil bacterial communities can vary greatly in composition across space. However, our understanding of the specific changes in soil bacterial community structure that occur across larger spatial scales is limited because most previous work has focused on either surveying a relatively small number of soils in detail or analyzing a larger number of soils with techniques that provide little detail about the phylogenetic structure of the bacterial communities. Here we used a bar-coded pyrosequencing technique to characterize bacterial communities in 88 soils from across North and South America, obtaining an average of 1,501 sequences per soil. We found that overall bacterial community composition, as measured by pairwise UniFrac distances, was significantly correlated with differences in soil pH (r = 0.79), largely driven by changes in the relative abundances of Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, and Bacteroidetes across the range of soil pHs. In addition, soil pH explains a significant portion of the variability associated with observed changes in the phylogenetic structure within each dominant lineage. The overall phylogenetic diversity of the bacterial communities was also correlated with soil pH (R(2) = 0.50), with peak diversity in soils with near-neutral pHs. Together, these results suggest that the structure of soil bacterial communities is predictable, to some degree, across larger spatial scales, and the effect of soil pH on bacterial community composition is evident at even relatively coarse levels of taxonomic resolution.
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          We review the biogeography of microorganisms in light of the biogeography of macroorganisms. A large body of research supports the idea that free-living microbial taxa exhibit biogeographic patterns. Current evidence confirms that, as proposed by the Baas-Becking hypothesis, 'the environment selects' and is, in part, responsible for spatial variation in microbial diversity. However, recent studies also dispute the idea that 'everything is everywhere'. We also consider how the processes that generate and maintain biogeographic patterns in macroorganisms could operate in the microbial world.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Department of Microbiology and Plant Diseases, The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot, Israel
            [2 ]Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, The Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boqer, Israel
            [3 ]Forensic Biology Laboratory, Division of Identification and Forensic Science (DIFS), Israel Police National Headquarters, Jerusalem, Israel
            [4 ]Institute of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences, Agricultural Research Organization, The Volcani Center, Bet-Dagan, Israel
            Université Paris Sud, France
            Author notes

            Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

            Conceived and designed the experiments: OG EJ DM RG AA JG. Performed the experiments: AA JG SA. Analyzed the data: ZP AA JG. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: RG. Wrote the paper: ZP AA JG RG SA DM OG EJ.

            Role: Editor
            PLoS One
            PLoS ONE
            PLoS ONE
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
            26 July 2013
            : 8
            : 7

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

            Pages: 9
            Funding for this project was provided by the Technical Support Working Group of the U.S. CTTSO (Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
            Research Article
            Soil Science
            Community Ecology
            Community Assembly
            Community Structure
            Microbial Ecology
            Soil Ecology
            Bacterial Taxonomy
            Microbial Ecology



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