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ISME J. 2013 Jan;7(1):61-71. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2012.80. Epub 2012 Jul 19.

Mechanisms determining the fate of dispersed bacterial communities in new environments.

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Department of Ecology and Genetics/Limnology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.


Recent work has shown that dispersal has an important role in shaping microbial communities. However, little is known about how dispersed bacteria cope with new environmental conditions and how they compete with local resident communities. To test this, we implemented two full-factorial transplant experiments with bacterial communities originating from two sources (freshwater or saline water), which were incubated, separately or in mixes, under both environmental conditions. Thus, we were able to separately test for the effects of the new environment with and without interactions with local communities. We determined community composition using 454-pyrosequencing of bacterial 16S rRNA to specifically target the active fraction of the communities, and measured several functional parameters. In absence of a local resident community, the net functional response was mainly affected by the environmental conditions, suggesting successful functional adaptation to the new environmental conditions. Community composition was influenced both by the source and the incubation environment, suggesting simultaneous effects of species sorting and functional plasticity. In presence of a local resident community, functional parameters were higher compared with those expected from proportional mixes of the unmixed communities in three out of four cases. This was accompanied by an increase in the relative abundance of generalists, suggesting that competitive interactions among local and immigrant taxa could explain the observed 'functional overachievement'. In summary, our results suggest that environmental filtering, functional plasticity and competition are all important mechanisms influencing the fate of dispersed communities.

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