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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 Apr;71(4):2053-60.

Vertical distribution of the free-living amoeba population in soil under desert shrubs in the Negev desert, Israel.

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  • 1Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel.


A field study was designed to examine the effect of desert shrubs on the dynamics of free-living amoebae in arid soil. Soil samples from 0- to 50-cm depths were collected at 10-cm intervals in each of the four seasons. The vertical distributions of the four main morphological types of amoebae, grouped according to their mobility, and of small flagellate populations were measured under the canopies of Hammada scoparia and Atriplex halimus, shrubs belonging to the chloride-absorbing xerohalophytes. The result obtained from the field study demonstrated that the total number of protozoa was significantly higher during the wet seasons (winter and spring) than during the dry seasons. The protozoan population was more diverse under the canopy of H. scoparia during the wet seasons, reaching 8,000 individuals per 1 g of dry soil, whereas during the dry seasons, the populations were higher under the canopy of A. halimus, with a mean of 250 individuals. The protozoan population in the deeper layers (40 to 50 cm) was found to be as active as that in the upper layers, demonstrating that, in the desert, soil columns below 20 cm are fertile and worth studying. The type 1 amoebae (e.g., Acanthamoeba and Filamoeba spp.) were the most abundant throughout the study period, and their numbers were significantly higher than those of the other amoeba types.

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