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Nat Ecol Evol. 2016 Dec 5;1(1):15. doi: 10.1038/s41559-016-0015.

High taxonomic variability despite stable functional structure across microbial communities.

Author information

1
Biodiversity Research Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, V6T 1Z4, Canada.
2
Institute of Applied Mathematics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, V6T 1Z2, Canada.
3
Department of Ecology, Biology Institute, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, RJ 21941-590, Brazil.
4
Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia e Evolugão, Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, 20550-013, Brazil.
5
Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, 21941-971, Brazil.
6
Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, V6T 1Z4, Canada.
7
Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, V6T 1Z4, Canada.
8
Department of Mathematics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, V6T 1Z2, Canada.

Abstract

Understanding the processes that are driving variation of natural microbial communities across space or time is a major challenge for ecologists. Environmental conditions strongly shape the metabolic function of microbial communities; however, other processes such as biotic interactions, random demographic drift or dispersal limitation may also influence community dynamics. The relative importance of these processes and their effects on community function remain largely unknown. To address this uncertainty, here we examined bacterial and archaeal communities in replicate 'miniature' aquatic ecosystems contained within the foliage of wild bromeliads. We used marker gene sequencing to infer the taxonomic composition within nine metabolic functional groups, and shotgun environmental DNA sequencing to estimate the relative abundances of these groups. We found that all of the bromeliads exhibited remarkably similar functional community structures, but that the taxonomic composition within individual functional groups was highly variable. Furthermore, using statistical analyses, we found that non-neutral processes, including environmental filtering and potentially biotic interactions, at least partly shaped the composition within functional groups and were more important than spatial dispersal limitation and demographic drift. Hence both the functional structure and taxonomic composition within functional groups of natural microbial communities may be shaped by non-neutral and roughly separate processes.

PMID:
28812567
DOI:
10.1038/s41559-016-0015

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