Biodiversity in microbial communities: System scale patterns and mechanisms

J. Jacob Parnell, Todd A. Crowl, Bart C Weimer, Michael E. Pfrender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The relationship between anthropogenic impact and the maintenance of biodiversity is a fundamental question in ecology. The emphasis on the organizational level of biodiversity responsible for ecosystem processes is shifting from a species-centred focus to include genotypic diversity. The relationship between biodiversity measures at these two scales remains largely unknown. By stratifying anthropogenic effects between scales of biodiversity of bacterial communities, we show a statistically significant difference in diversity based on taxonomic scale. Communities with intermediate species richness show high genotypic diversity while speciose and species-poor communities do not. We propose that in species-poor communities, generally comprising stable yet harsh conditions, physiological tolerance and competitive trade-offs limit both the number of species that occur and the loss of genotypes due to decreases in already constrained fitness. In species-rich communities, natural environmental conditions result in well-defined community structure and resource partitioning. Disturbance of these communities disrupts niche space, resulting in lower genotypic diversity despite the maintenance of species diversity. Our work provides a model to inform future research about relationships between species and genotypic biodiversity based on determining the biodiversity consequences of changing environmental context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1455-1462
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodiversity
  • Disturbance
  • Microbial diversity
  • Richness maintenance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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