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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Aug 29;103(35):13104-9. Epub 2006 Aug 22.

Annually reoccurring bacterial communities are predictable from ocean conditions.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences and Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Southern California, 3616 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, 90089, USA.


Factors influencing patterns in the distribution and abundance of plant and animal taxa modulate ecosystem function and ecosystem response to environmental change, which is often taken to infer low functional redundancy among such species, but such relationships are poorly known for microbial communities. Using high-resolution molecular fingerprinting, we demonstrate the existence of extraordinarily repeatable temporal patterns in the community composition of 171 operational taxonomic units of marine bacterioplankton over 4.5 years at our Microbial Observatory site, 20 km off the southern California coast. These patterns in distribution and abundance of microbial taxa were highly predictable and significantly influenced by a broad range of both abiotic and biotic factors. These findings provide statistically robust demonstration of temporal patterning in marine bacterial distribution and abundance, which suggests that the distribution and abundance of bacterial taxa may modulate ecosystem function and response and that a significant subset of the bacteria exhibit low levels of functional redundancy as documented for many plant and animal communities.

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