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Species sorting and neutral processes are both important during the initial assembly of bacterial communities

By Silke Langenheder and Anna J Székely


Many studies have shown that species sorting, that is, the selection by local environmental conditions is important for the composition and assembly of bacterial communities. On the other hand, there are other studies that could show that bacterial communities are neutrally assembled. In this study, we implemented a microcosm experiment with the aim to determine, at the same time, the importance of species sorting and neutral processes for bacterial community assembly during the colonisation of new, that is, sterile, habitats, by atmospheric bacteria. For this we used outdoor microcosms, which contained sterile medium from three different rock pools representing different environmental conditions, which were seeded by rainwater bacteria. We found some evidence for neutral assembly processes, as almost every 4th taxon growing in the microcosms was also detectable in the rainwater sample irrespective of the medium. Most of these taxa belonged to widespread families with opportunistic growth strategies, such as the Pseudomonadaceae and Comamonadaceae, indicating that neutrally assembled taxa may primarily be generalists. On the other hand, we also found evidence for species sorting, as one out of three media selected a differently composed bacterial community. Species sorting effects were relatively weak and established themselves via differences in relative abundance of generalists among the different media, as well as media-specific occurrences of a few specific taxa. In summary, our results suggest that neutral and species sorting processes interact during the assembly of bacterial communities and that their importance may differ depending on how many generalists and specialists are present in a community

Topics: Original Article
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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