Spatial and Temporal Biogeography of Soil Microbial Communities in Arid and Semiarid Regions

Zohar Pasternak*, Ashraf Al-Ashhab, Joao Gatica, Ron Gafny, Shlomit Avraham, Dror Minz, Osnat Gillor, Edouard Jurkevitch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Microbial communities in soils may change in accordance with distance, season, climate, soil texture and other environmental parameters. Microbial diversity patterns have been extensively surveyed in temperate regions, but few such studies attempted to address them with respect to spatial and temporal scales and their correlations to environmental factors, especially in arid ecosystems. In order to fill this gap on a regional scale, the molecular fingerprints and abundance of three taxonomic groups - Bacteria, α-Proteobacteria and Actinobacteria - were sampled from soils 0.5-100 km apart in arid, semi-arid, dry Mediterranean and shoreline Mediterranean regions in Israel. Additionally, on a local scale, the molecular fingerprints of three taxonomic groups - Bacteria, Archaea and Fungi - were sampled from soils 1 cm-500 m apart in the semi-arid region, in both summer and winter. Fingerprints of the Bacteria differentiated between all regions (P<0.02), while those of the α-Proteobacteria differentiated between some of the regions (0.01<P<0.09), and actinobacterial fingerprints were similar among all regions (P>0.05). Locally, fingerprints of archaea and fungi did not display distance-decay relationships (P>0.13), that is, the dissimilarity between communities did not increase with geographic distance. Neither was this phenomenon evident in bacterial samples in summer (P>0.24); in winter, however, differences between bacterial communities significantly increased as the geographic distances between them grew (P<0.01). Microbial community structures, as well as microbial abundance, were both significantly correlated to precipitation and soil characteristics: texture, organic matter and water content (R2>0.60, P<0.01). We conclude that on the whole, microbial biogeography in arid and semi-arid soils in Israel is determined more by specific environmental factors than geographic distances and spatial distribution patterns.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere69705
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
StatePublished - 26 Jul 2013


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