Bacterial taxa–area and distance–decay relationships in marine environments

Antje.Boetius [ at ]


The taxa–area relationship (TAR) and the distance–decay relationship (DDR) both describe spatial turnover of taxa and are central patterns of biodiversity. Here, we compared TAR and DDR of bacterial communities across different marine realms and ecosystems at the global scale. To obtain reliable global estimates for both relationships, we quantified the poorly assessed effects of sequencing depth, rare taxa removal and number of sampling sites. Slope coefficients of bacterial TARs were within the range of those of plants and animals, whereas slope coefficients of bacterial DDR were much lower. Slope coefficients were mostly affected by removing rare taxa and by the number of sampling sites considered in the calculations. TAR and DDR slope coefficients were overestimated at sequencing depth <4000 sequences per sample. Noticeably, bacterial TAR and DDR patterns did not correlate with each other both within and across ecosystem types, suggesting that (i) TAR cannot be directly derived from DDR and (ii) TAR and DDR may be influenced by different ecological factors. Nevertheless, we found marine bacterial TAR and DDR to be steeper in ecosystems associated with high environmental heterogeneity or spatial isolation, namely marine sediments and coastal environments compared with pelagic ecosystems. Hence, our study provides information on macroecological patterns of marine bacteria, as well as methodological and conceptual insights, at a time when biodiversity surveys increasingly make use of high-throughput sequencing technologies.

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DOI 10.1111/mec.12640

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Zinger, L. , Boetius, A. and Ramette, A. (2014): Bacterial taxa–area and distance–decay relationships in marine environments , Molecular Ecology, 23 (4), pp. 954-964 . doi: 10.1111/mec.12640

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