Microbes follow Humboldt: temperature drives plant and soil microbial diversity patterns from the Amazon to the Andes

Nottingham, Andrew T.; Fierer, Noah; Turner, Benjamin L.; Whitaker, Jeanette; Ostle, Nick J.; McNamara, Niall P.; Bardgett, Richard D.; Leff, Jonathan W.; Salinas, Norma; Silman, Miles R.; Kruuk, Loeske E.B.; Meir, Patrick. 2018 Microbes follow Humboldt: temperature drives plant and soil microbial diversity patterns from the Amazon to the Andes. Ecology, 99 (11). 2455-2466.

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More than 200 years ago, Alexander von Humboldt reported that tropical plant species richness decreased with increasing elevation and decreasing temperature. Surprisingly, co‐ordinated patterns in plant, bacterial and fungal diversity on tropical mountains are yet to be observed, despite the central role of soil microorganisms in terrestrial biogeochemistry. We studied an Andean transect traversing 3.5 km in elevation to test whether the species diversity and composition of tropical forest plants, soil bacteria and fungi follow similar biogeographical patterns with shared environmental drivers. We found co‐ordinated changes with elevation in all three groups: species richness declined as elevation increased, and the compositional‐dissimilarity among communities increased with increased separation in elevation, although changes in plant diversity were larger than in bacteria and fungi. Temperature was the dominant driver of these diversity gradients, with weak influences of edaphic properties, including soil pH. The gradients in microbial diversity were strongly correlated with the activities of enzymes involved in organic matter cycling, and were accompanied by a transition in microbial traits towards slower‐growing, oligotrophic taxa at higher elevations. We provide the first evidence of co‐ordinated temperature‐driven patterns in the diversity and distribution of three major biotic groups in tropical ecosystems: soil bacteria, fungi and plants. These findings suggest that inter‐related patterns of plant and microbial communities with shared environmental drivers occur across landscape scales of relatively constant soil pH, with implications for tropical forest communities under future climate change.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0012-9658
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: biogeography, elevation gradient, microbial ecology, plant ecology, Peru, phylogenetic diversity tropical forests
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 20 Sep 2018 13:21 +0 (UTC)

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