A global atlas of the dominant bacteria found in soil

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Science  19 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6373, pp. 320-325
DOI: 10.1126/science.aap9516

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A global map of soil bacteria

Soil bacteria play key roles in regulating terrestrial carbon dynamics, nutrient cycles, and plant productivity. However, the natural histories and distributions of these organisms remain largely undocumented. Delgado-Baquerizo et al. provide a survey of the dominant bacterial taxa found around the world. In soil collections from six continents, they found that only 2% of bacterial taxa account for nearly half of the soil bacterial communities across the globe. These dominant taxa could be clustered into ecological groups of co-occurring bacteria that share habitat preferences. The findings will allow for a more predictive understanding of soil bacterial diversity and distribution.

Science, this issue p. 320


The immense diversity of soil bacterial communities has stymied efforts to characterize individual taxa and document their global distributions. We analyzed soils from 237 locations across six continents and found that only 2% of bacterial phylotypes (~500 phylotypes) consistently accounted for almost half of the soil bacterial communities worldwide. Despite the overwhelming diversity of bacterial communities, relatively few bacterial taxa are abundant in soils globally. We clustered these dominant taxa into ecological groups to build the first global atlas of soil bacterial taxa. Our study narrows down the immense number of bacterial taxa to a “most wanted” list that will be fruitful targets for genomic and cultivation-based efforts aimed at improving our understanding of soil microbes and their contributions to ecosystem functioning.

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