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Trends Ecol Evol. 2006 Sep;21(9):501-7. Epub 2006 Jul 11.

Spatial scaling of microbial biodiversity.

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School of Natural Sciences, University of California, PO Box 2039, Merced, CA 95344, USA.


A central goal in ecology is to understand the spatial scaling of biodiversity. Patterns in the spatial distribution of organisms provide important clues about the underlying mechanisms that structure ecological communities and are central to setting conservation priorities. Although microorganisms comprise much of Earth's biodiversity, little is known about their biodiversity scaling relationships relative to that for plants and animals. Here, we discuss current knowledge of microbial diversity at local and global scales. We focus on three spatial patterns: the distance-decay relationship (how community composition changes with geographic distance), the taxa-area relationship, and the local:global taxa richness ratio. Recent empirical analyses of these patterns for microorganisms suggest that there are biodiversity scaling rules common to all forms of life.

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