Permanent link to Research Commons versionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10289/15664
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.
© 2023 Lemoine et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.