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ISME J. 2017 Apr;11(4):853-862. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2016.174. Epub 2017 Jan 10.

Where less may be more: how the rare biosphere pulls ecosystems strings.

Author information

1
Utrecht University, Department of Biology, Institute of Environmental Biology, Ecology and Biodiversity Group, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
2
Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany.
3
Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany.
4
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Leipzig, Germany.
5
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany.
6
Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland.
7
Center for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany & Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, South Africa.
8
Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Université Paris 06, CNRS, UMR 8227, Integrative Biology of Marine Models, Station Biologique de Roscoff, F-29688, Roscoff Cedex, France.
9
Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Department of Terrestrial Ecology, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
10
Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Institute of Ecology, Jena, Germany.
11
Freie Universtät Berlin, Institute of Biology, Berlin, Germany.
12
Berlin-Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research (BBIB), Berlin, Germany.
13
Imperial College London, Department of Life Sciences, Silwood Park Campus, Ascot, UK.
14
Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
15
Plant-Soil Interactions, Institute for Sustainability Sciences, Agroscope, Zürich, Switzerland.
16
Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.
17
Plant-microbe Interactions, Institute of Environmental Biology, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
18
Oklahoma State University, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Stillwater, OK, USA.
19
State Key Laboratory of Pollution Control & Resource Reuse, School of the Environment, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China.
20
Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China.

Abstract

Rare species are increasingly recognized as crucial, yet vulnerable components of Earth's ecosystems. This is also true for microbial communities, which are typically composed of a high number of relatively rare species. Recent studies have demonstrated that rare species can have an over-proportional role in biogeochemical cycles and may be a hidden driver of microbiome function. In this review, we provide an ecological overview of the rare microbial biosphere, including causes of rarity and the impacts of rare species on ecosystem functioning. We discuss how rare species can have a preponderant role for local biodiversity and species turnover with rarity potentially bound to phylogenetically conserved features. Rare microbes may therefore be overlooked keystone species regulating the functioning of host-associated, terrestrial and aquatic environments. We conclude this review with recommendations to guide scientists interested in investigating this rapidly emerging research area.

PMID:
28072420
PMCID:
PMC5364357
DOI:
10.1038/ismej.2016.174
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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