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Environmental and spatial variables determine the taxonomic but not functional structure patterns of microbial communities in alpine grasslands

Wang, Xiao-Bo, Yao, Jing, Zhang, Hai-Yang, Wang, Xiao-Guang, Li, Kai-Hui, Lü, Xiao-Tao, Wang, Zheng-Wen, Zhou, Ji-Zhong, Han, Xing-Guo
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.654 pp. 960-968
alpine grasslands, environmental factors, functional diversity, genes, genetic markers, microbial communities, soil microorganisms, species diversity, surveys, China
There is considerable debate regarding how the taxonomic diversity of microbial communities relates to the functional diversity across space while similar questions have been explored in macro-organism communities. Here, we investigated the taxonomic and functional diversity patterns of soil microbial communities by coupling the data obtained from marker genes sequencing and functional gene surveys. Meanwhile, we evaluated the relative effects of environment and geographic distance on shaping these patterns in alpine grasslands of northern China. Although the taxonomic diversity and composition of microbial communities varied across sites, we found no consistent changes in the functional structure. Both the environmental factors and geographic distance concurrently affected the taxonomic diversity patterns but they had no effects on the spatial variations in functional genes. The functional alpha diversity was weakly correlated to the taxonomic alpha diversity across sites. Moreover, we found no significant relationship between the taxonomic and functional composition similarity among microbial communities. Together, our results provide evidence that spatial variation in microbial functions could be independent of their variations in taxonomic diversity. Even the drivers of spatial variations in the functional structure could be totally different from those of taxonomic variations such as environmental differences and dispersal limitation. Our findings suggest that spatial variations of microbial function structure within a community would not follow the variations of taxonomic structures due to different drivers between both of them over space.