Consistent changes in the taxonomic structure and functional attributes of bacterial communities during primary succession

Ortiz-Álvarez, RüdigerFierer, NoahRíos, Asunción de losCasamayor, Emilio O.Barberán, Albert. . The ISME Journal : doi:10.1038/s41396-018-0076-2 (2018)  DIGITAL CSIC

Ecologists have long studied primary succession, the changes that occur in biological communities after initial colonization of an environment. Most of this work has focused on succession in plant communities, laying the conceptual foundation for much of what we currently know about community assembly patterns over time. Because of their prevalence and importance in ecosystems, an increasing number of studies have focused on microbial community dynamics during succession. Here, we conducted a meta-analysis of bacterial primary succession patterns across a range of distinct habitats, including the infant gut, plant surfaces, soil chronosequences, and aquatic environments, to determine whether consistent changes in bacterial diversity, community composition, and functional traits are evident over the course of succession. Although these distinct habitats harbor unique bacterial communities, we were able to identify patterns in community assembly that were shared across habitat types. We found an increase in taxonomic and functional diversity with time while the taxonomic composition and functional profiles of communities became less variable (lower beta diversity) in late successional stages. In addition, we found consistent decreases in the rRNA operon copy number and in the high-efficient phosphate assimilation process (Pst system) suggesting that reductions in resource availability during succession select for taxa adapted to low-resource conditions. Together, these results highlight that, like many plant communities, microbial communities also exhibit predictable patterns during primary succession.