Soil Microbial Abundance and Diversity Along a Low Precipitation Gradient

Ami Bachar, Ashraf Al-Ashhab, M. Ines M. Soares, Menachem Y. Sklarz, Roey Angel, Eugene D. Ungar, Osnat Gillor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Scopus citations


The exploration of spatial patterns of abundance and diversity patterns along precipitation gradients has focused for centuries on plants and animals; microbial profiles along such gradients are largely unknown. We studied the effects of soil pH, nutrient concentration, salinity, and water content on bacterial abundance and diversity in soils collected from Mediterranean, semi-arid, and arid sites receiving approximately 400, 300, and 100 mm annual precipitation, respectively. Bacterial diversity was evaluated by terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism and clone library analyses and the patterns obtained varied with the climatic regions. Over 75% of the sequenced clones were unique to their environment, while ~2% were shared by all sites, yet, the Mediterranean and semi-arid sites had more common clones (~9%) than either had with the arid site (4.7% and 6%, respectively). The microbial abundance, estimated by phospholipid fatty acids and real-time quantitative PCR assays, was significantly lower in the arid region. Our results indicate that although soil bacterial abundance decreases with precipitation, bacterial diversity is independent of precipitation gradient. Furthermore, community composition was found to be unique to each ecosystem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-461
Number of pages9
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 4 Aug 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Soil Science


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