The leaves of Tamarix, a salt-secreting desert tree, form an extreme niche that harbors a unique microbial community. In view of the global distribution of this tree, its island-like phyllosphere is highly suitable for studying microbial diversity along geographical gradients. Here we present an analysis of microbial community diversity using leaf surface samples collected at six different sites, on both sides of the Dead Sea, over a period of one year. Biodiversity analysis of denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) patterns of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene revealed a significant degree of bacterial community similarity within trees sampled at the same site, much higher than the similarity between trees from different geographical locations. Statistical analysis indicated that the degree of similarity was negatively correlated with the distance between sampling sites, and that a weak correlation existed between diversity and leaf pH.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the reviewers and Elizabeth K. Costello for helpful remarks. This study was funded by the Bridging the Rift Foundation and by the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation grant number 2006324.
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