Biogeographic Patterns and Assembly Mechanisms of Bacterial Communities Differ Between Habitat Generalists and Specialists Across Elevational Gradients.
ABSTRACT: A core issue in microbial ecology is the need to elucidate the ecological processes and underlying mechanisms involved in microbial community assembly. However, the extent to which these mechanisms differ in importance based on traits of taxa with different niche breadth is poorly understood. Here, we used high-throughput sequencing to examine the relative importance of environmental selection and stochastic processes in shaping soil bacterial sub-communities with different niche breadth (including habitat generalists, specialists and other taxa) across elevational gradients on the subalpine slope of Mount Wutai, Northern China. Our findings suggested that the composition of soil bacterial communities differed significantly different among elevational gradients. According to the niche breadth index, 10.9% of OTUs were defined as habitat generalists (B-value >8.7) and 10.0% of OTUs were defined as habitat specialists (B-value <1.5). Generalists and specialists differed distinctly in diversity and biogeographic patterns across elevational gradients. Environmental selection (deterministic processes) and spatial factors (stochastic processes) seemed to determine the assembly and biogeography of habitat generalists. However, for specialists, deterministic processes strongly influenced the distribution, while stochastic processes were not at play. Environmental drivers for generalists and specialists differed, as did their importance. Elevation, total nitrogen and pH were the main factors determining habitat generalists, and soil water content, nitrate nitrogen and pH had the strongest impacts on specialists. Moreover, variation partitioning analysis revealed that environmental selection had a much greater impact on both generalists (17.7% of pure variance was explained) and specialists (3.6%) than spatial factors. However, generalists had a much stronger response to spatial factors (2.3%) than specialists (0.3%). More importantly, null models of ?-diversity suggested that specialists deviated significantly from non-neutral assembly mechanisms (relative null deviation= 0.64-0.74) relative to generalists (0.16-0.65) (P < 0.05). These results indicate that generalists and specialists are governed by different assembly mechanisms and present distinct biogeographical patterns. The large proportion of unexplained variation in specialists (93.3%) implies that very complex assembly mechanisms exist in the assembly of specialists across elevational gradients on the subalpine slope of Mount Wutai. It is essential to understand the microbial community assembly at a more refined level, and to expand the current understanding of microbial ecological mechanisms.
Project description:Coastal sands harbor diverse microbial assemblages that play a critical role in the biogeochemical cycling of beach ecosystems. However, little is known about the relative importance of the different ecological processes underlying the assembly of communities of sand microbiota. Here, we employed 16S rDNA amplicon sequencing to investigate the sand microbiota of two coastal beaches, in southern China. The results showed that sand microbial assemblages at intertidal and supratidal zones exhibited contrasting compositions that can be attributed to environmental filtering by electric conductivity. A consistent pattern of habitat generalists and specialists of sand microbiota was observed among different beach zones. Null and neutral model analyses indicated that the environmental filtering was mainly responsible for supratidal microbial communities, while the neutral processes could partially influence the assembly of intertidal communities. Moreover, environmental filtering was found to shape the habitat specialists, while random dispersal played a major role in shaping generalists. The neutral model analysis revealed that the habitat generalists exceeding the neutral prediction harbored a relatively higher proportion of microbial taxa than the specialist counterparts. An opposite pattern was observed for taxa falling below the neutral prediction. Collectively, these findings offer a novel insight into the assembly mechanisms of coastal sand microbiota.
Project description:Marine microbes exhibit biogeographical patterns linked with fluxes of matter and energy. Yet, knowledge of the mechanisms shaping bacterioplankton community assembly across temporal scales remains poor. We examined bacterioplankton 16S rRNA gene fragments obtained from Baltic Sea transects to determine phylogenetic relatedness and assembly processes coupled with niche breadth. Communities were phylogenetically more related over time than expected by chance, albeit with considerable temporal variation. Hence, habitat filtering, i.e., local environmental conditions, rather than competition structured bacterioplankton communities in summer but not in spring or autumn. Species sorting (SS) was the dominant assembly process, but temporal and taxonomical variation in mechanisms was observed. For May communities, Cyanobacteria, Actinobacteria, Alpha- and Betaproteobacteria exhibited SS while Bacteroidetes and Verrucomicrobia were assembled by SS and mass effect. Concomitantly, Gammaproteobacteria were assembled by the neutral model and patch dynamics. Temporal variation in habitat filtering and dispersal highlights the impact of seasonally driven reorganization of microbial communities. Typically abundant Baltic Sea populations such as the NS3a marine group (Bacteroidetes) and the SAR86 and SAR11 clade had the highest niche breadth. The verrucomicrobial Spartobacteria population also exhibited high niche breadth. Surprisingly, variation in bacterioplankton community composition was regulated by environmental factors for generalist taxa but not specialists. Our results suggest that generalists such as NS3a, SAR86, and SAR11 are reorganized to a greater extent by changes in the environment compared to specialists and contribute more strongly to determining overall biogeographical patterns of marine bacterial communities.
Project description:Limited information is currently available on the assembly processes (deterministic vs. stochastic) shaping the compositions of key microbial communities in activated sludge (AS). The relative importance of deterministic and stochastic processes for key bacterial and archaeal assemblages (i.e., core-satellite and habitat generalist-specialist) in AS from 13 wastewater treatment plants in China was investigated using 16S rDNA amplicon sequencing. The results obtained indicated 1,388 and 369 core operational taxonomic units (OTUs), 1,038 and 1,683 satellite OTUs, 255 and 48 habitat generalist OTUs, and 192 and 111 habitat specialist OTUs for Bacteria and Archaea, respectively. The proportions of shared OTUs between core and habitat specialist communities were similar to or higher than those between core and habitat generalist communities, suggesting a stronger inter-linkage between the former two groups. Deterministic processes, indicated by abundance-based ?-null models, were responsible for shaping core communities, in which NH4-N, OrgC/OrgN, Cr, and Ni were the main controlling factors. In contrast, satellite communities were predominantly influenced by stochastic processes. Moreover, we found that deterministic and stochastic processes were mainly responsible for shaping the assembly of habitat specialists and generalists, respectively. However, the influence of deterministic factors on habitat specialists remains unclear. The present study provides novel insights into the assembly mechanisms of AS microbial communities.
Project description:Mountains produce distinct environmental gradients that may constrain or facilitate both the presence of avian species and/or specific combinations of functional traits. We addressed species richness and functional diversity to understand the relative importance of habitat structure and elevation in shaping avian diversity patterns in the south temperate Andes, Chile. During 2010-2018, we conducted 2202 point-counts in four mountain habitats (successional montane forest, old-growth montane forest, subalpine, and alpine) from 211 to 1,768 m in elevation and assembled trait data associated with resource use for each species to estimate species richness and functional diversity and turnover. We detected 74 species. Alpine specialists included 16 species (22%) occurring only above treeline with a mean elevational range of 298 m, while bird communities below treeline (78%) occupied a mean elevational range of 1,081 m. Treeline was an inflection line, above which species composition changed by 91% and there was a greater turnover in functional traits (2-3 times greater than communities below treeline). Alpine birds were almost exclusively migratory, inhabiting a restricted elevational range, and breeding in rock cavities. We conclude that elevation and habitat heterogeneity structure avian trait distributions and community composition, with a diverse ecotonal sub-alpine and a distinct alpine community.
Project description:Fertilization regimes are known to drive succession of the soil microbial community, whereas the assembly rules involved remain elusive. Moreover, the ecological roles of microbial "generalists" and "specialists" in soils with contrasting fertilization regimes have not been characterized. We explored how long-term fertilization regimes (i.e., treatments conducted for at least 30?years) impact the soil bacteria by modifying species richness, diversity, bacterial assembly, and niche breadth. Compared with long-term organic fertilizer input, the soils having undergone chemical-only fertilization contained smaller amounts of carbon resources and had a more acidic environment. This strong environmental constraint lowered the soil bacterial reservoir and resulted in a detectable ecoevolutionary transformation, with both a higher proportion of specialists and a stronger signature of deterministic processes. Overall, this study provided a new comprehensive understanding of the assembly rules of bacterial generalists and specialists under long-term fertilization regimes. This study also highlighted that chemical-only fertilization, a ubiquitous agricultural practice of current conventional agriculture, induced a strong and similar environmental force that transformed the soil microbiota from 28°N to 46°N included in this study.IMPORTANCE Chemical-only fertilization is ubiquitous in contemporary conventional agriculture despite the fact that sustainability of this agricultural practice is increasingly being questioned because of the current observed soil degradation. We explored how long-term chemical-only versus organic-only fertilizations impacted the soil microbiota reservoir in terms of both diversity and induced assembly processes. The results showed that long-term chemical-only fertilization resulted in deep selection pressure on the soil microbial community reservoir, with both a higher proportion of specialists and a stronger signature of deterministic processes. The soil microbiota has clearly changed as a consequence of the fertilization regime. The diagnoses of the functional consequences of these ecoevolutionary changes in relation to agricultural practices are key to imagining agriculture in the time ahead and especially regarding future efforts for the conservation, restoration, and management of the soil microbiota reservoir which is key to the fertility of the ecosystem.
Project description:Exploring large environmental datasets generated by high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies requires new analytical approaches to move beyond the basic inventory descriptions of the composition and diversity of natural microbial communities. In order to investigate potential interactions between microbial taxa, network analysis of significant taxon co-occurrence patterns may help to decipher the structure of complex microbial communities across spatial or temporal gradients. Here, we calculated associations between microbial taxa and applied network analysis approaches to a 16S rRNA gene barcoded pyrosequencing dataset containing >160?000 bacterial and archaeal sequences from 151 soil samples from a broad range of ecosystem types. We described the topology of the resulting network and defined operational taxonomic unit categories based on abundance and occupancy (that is, habitat generalists and habitat specialists). Co-occurrence patterns were readily revealed, including general non-random association, common life history strategies at broad taxonomic levels and unexpected relationships between community members. Overall, we demonstrated the potential of exploring inter-taxa correlations to gain a more integrated understanding of microbial community structure and the ecological rules guiding community assembly.
Project description:Migratory birds face significant challenges across their annual cycle, including occupying an appropriate non-breeding home range with sufficient foraging resources. This can affect demographic processes such as over-winter survival, migration mortality and subsequent breeding success. In the Sahel region of Africa, where millions of migratory songbirds attempt to survive the winter, some species of insectivorous warblers occupy both wetland and dry-scrubland habitats, whereas other species are wetland or dry-scrubland specialists. In this study we examine evidence for strategic regulation of body reserves and competition-driven habitat selection, by comparing invertebrate prey activity-density, warbler body size and extent of fat and pectoral muscle deposits, in each habitat type during the non-breeding season. Invertebrate activity-density was substantially higher in wetland habitats than in dry-scrubland. Eurasian reed warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus occupying wetland habitats maintained lower body reserves than conspecifics occupying dry-scrub habitats, consistent with buffering of reserves against starvation in food-poor habitat. A similar, but smaller, difference in body reserves between wet and dry habitat was found among subalpine warblers Sylvia cantillans but not in chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita inhabiting dry-scrub and scrub fringing wetlands. Body reserves were relatively low among habitat specialist species; resident African reed warbler A. baeticatus and migratory sedge warbler A. schoenobaenus exclusively occupying wetland habitats, and Western olivaceous warblers Iduna opaca exclusively occupying dry habitats. These results suggest that specialists in preferred habitats and generalists occupying prey-rich habitats can reduce body reserves, whereas generalists occupying prey-poor habitats carry an increased level of body reserves as a strategic buffer against starvation.
Project description:Observations of distributions of microorganisms and their differences in community composition across habitats provide evidence of biogeographical patterns. However, little is known about the processes controlling transfers across habitat gradients. By analysing the overall microbial community composition (bacteria, fungi, archaea) across a terrestrial-freshwater gradient, the aim of this study was to understand the spatial distribution patterns of populations and identify taxa capable of crossing biome borders. Barcoded 454 pyrosequencing of taxonomic gene markers was used to describe the microbial communities in adjacent soil, freshwater and sediment samples and study the role of biotic and spatial factors in shaping their composition. Few habitat generalists but a high number of specialists were detected indicating that microbial community composition was mainly regulated by species sorting and niche partitioning. Biotic interactions within microbial groups based on an association network underlined the importance of Actinobacteria, Sordariomycetes, Agaricomycetes and Nitrososphaerales in connecting among biomes. Even if dispersion seemed limited, the shore of the lake represented a transition area, allowing populations to cross the biome boundaries. In finding few broadly distributed populations, our study points to biome specialization within microbial communities with limited potential for dispersal and colonization of new habitats along the terrestrial-freshwater continuum.
Project description:A better understand the ecology of microbes and their role in the global ecosystem could be achieved if traditional ecological theories can be applied to microbes. In ecology organisms are defined as specialists or generalists according to the breadth of their niche. Spatial distribution is often used as a proxy measure of niche breadth; generalists have broad niches and a wide spatial distribution and specialists a narrow niche and spatial distribution. Previous studies suggest that microbial distribution patterns are contrary to this idea; a microbial generalist genus (Desulfobulbus) has a limited spatial distribution while a specialist genus (Methanosaeta) has a cosmopolitan distribution. Therefore, we hypothesise that this counter-intuitive distribution within generalist and specialist microbial genera is a common microbial characteristic. Using molecular fingerprinting the distribution of four microbial genera, two generalists, Desulfobulbus and the methanogenic archaea Methanosarcina, and two specialists, Methanosaeta and the sulfate-reducing bacteria Desulfobacter were analysed in sediment samples from along a UK estuary. Detected genotypes of both generalist genera showed a distinct spatial distribution, significantly correlated with geographic distance between sites. Genotypes of both specialist genera showed no significant differential spatial distribution. These data support the hypothesis that the spatial distribution of specialist and generalist microbes does not match that seen with specialist and generalist large organisms. It may be that generalist microbes, while having a wider potential niche, are constrained, possibly by intrageneric competition, to exploit only a small part of that potential niche while specialists, with far fewer constraints to their niche, are more capable of filling their potential niche more effectively, perhaps by avoiding intrageneric competition. We suggest that these counter-intuitive distribution patterns may be a common feature of microbes in general and represent a distinct microbial principle in ecology, which is a real challenge if we are to develop a truly inclusive ecology.
Project description:Plant communities on tropical high islands, such as the Hawaiian Islands, are predicted to experience rapid climate change, resulting in novel climates. If increased temperature and/or drought exceed plant species' current tolerances, species that are unable to adapt or shift ranges risk extinction. By definition, habitat generalists have a wide niche breadth and thrive in a variety of habitats, whereas habitat specialists have a narrow niche breadth, and typically thrive under more specific climatic characteristics (e.g., cold). The objectives of this study were to: (1) classify plant species in the Hawaiian Islands along a habitat generalist-specialist continuum; (2) independently test the validity of species rankings, using environmental and biogeographic ranges; and (3) identify species' life-history traits that predict species location along the continuum. We quantified specialization for 170 plant species using species co-occurrence data from over one thousand plots to rank species' realized habitat niche breadth using the Jaccard index. The distribution of species along this continuum differed by species biogeographic origin, with endemic plant species ranked on the specialist end and non-native plant species ranked on the generalist end. Habitat specialization rankings also differed for four of nine tested variables (while controlling for biogeographic origin): number of habitat moisture types, minimum elevation, number of Hawaiian Islands, and life form. Life form was the only trait tested that differed across the continuum, with woody species ranked as stronger generalists than herbaceous species; this pattern was particularly evident for non-native species. This indirect method of estimating species' potential climatic flexibility uses increasingly available large plant community data sets with output rankings which represent species' realized habitat niches. Identifying species and plant communities that are on the habitat specialist end of the continuum allows for their prioritization in conservation planning, as globally the loss of specialists is an indication of degradation.