Drivers of bacterial β-diversity depend on spatial scale

Jennifer B H Martiny, Jonathan A Eisen, Kevin Penn, Steven D. Allison, M. Claire Horner-Devine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

483 Scopus citations


The factors driving β-diversity (variation in community composition) yield insights into the maintenance of biodiversity on the planet. Here we tested whether the mechanisms that underlie bacterial β-diversity vary over centimeters to continental spatial scales by comparing the composition of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria communities in salt marsh sediments. As observed in studies of macroorganisms, the drivers of salt marsh bacterial β-diversity depend on spatial scale. In contrast to macroorganism studies, however, we found no evidence of evolutionary diversification of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria taxa at the continental scale, despite an overall relationship between geographic distance and community similarity. Our data are consistent with the idea that dispersal limitation at local scales can contribute to β-diversity, even though the 16S rRNA genes of the relatively common taxa are globally distributed. These results highlight the importance of considering multiple spatial scales for understanding microbial biogeography.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7850-7854
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 10 2011


  • Distance-decay
  • Ecological drift
  • Microbial composition
  • Nitrosomonadales

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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