Decoupling function and taxonomy in the global ocean microbiome

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Science  16 Sep 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6305, pp. 1272-1277
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf4507

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Microbial metabolism powers biogeochemical cycling in Earth’s ecosystems. The taxonomic composition of microbial communities varies substantially between environments, but the ecological causes of this variation remain largely unknown. We analyzed taxonomic and functional community profiles to determine the factors that shape marine bacterial and archaeal communities across the global ocean. By classifying >30,000 marine microorganisms into metabolic functional groups, we were able to disentangle functional from taxonomic community variation. We find that environmental conditions strongly influence the distribution of functional groups in marine microbial communities by shaping metabolic niches, but only weakly influence taxonomic composition within individual functional groups. Hence, functional structure and composition within functional groups constitute complementary and roughly independent “axes of variation” shaped by markedly different processes.

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