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Title: Strong Dispersal Limitation of Microbial Communities at Shackleton Glacier, Antarctica
ABSTRACT Microbial communities can be structured by both deterministic and stochastic processes, but the relative importance of these processes remains unknown. The ambiguity partly arises from an inability to disentangle soil microbial processes from confounding factors, such as aboveground plant communities or anthropogenic disturbance. In this study, we characterized the relative contributions of determinism and stochasticity to assembly processes of soil bacterial communities across a large environmental gradient of undisturbed Antarctic soils. We hypothesized that harsh soils would impose a strong environmental selection on microbial communities, whereas communities in benign soils would be structured largely by dispersal. Contrary to our expectations, dispersal was the dominant assembly mechanism across the entire soil environmental gradient, including benign environments. The microbial community composition reflects slowly changing soil conditions and dispersal limitation of isolated sites. Thus, stochastic processes, as opposed to deterministic, are primary drivers of soil ecosystem assembly across space at our study site. This is especially surprising given the strong environmental constraints on soil microorganisms in one of the harshest environments on the planet, suggesting that dispersal could be a driving force in microbial community assembly in soils worldwide. IMPORTANCE Because of their diversity and ubiquity, microbes provide an excellent means to tease apart how natural communities are structured. In general, ecologists believe that stochastic assembly processes, like random drift and dispersal, should dominate in benign environments while deterministic processes, like environmental filtering, should be prevalent in harsh environments. To help resolve this debate, we analyzed microbial community composition in pristine Antarctic soils devoid of human influence or plant communities for eons. Our results demonstrate that dispersal limitation is a surprisingly potent force of community limitation throughout all soil conditions. Thus, dispersal appears to be a driving force of microbial community assembly, even in the harshest of conditions.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2133685 1341736 2133684
NSF-PAR ID:
10404878
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Editor(s):
Lurgi, Miguel
Date Published:
Journal Name:
mSystems
Volume:
8
Issue:
1
ISSN:
2379-5077
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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