Ecosystems consist of aboveground and belowground subsystems and the structure of their communities is known to change with distance. However, most of this knowledge originates from visible, aboveground components, whereas relatively little is known about how soil community structure varies with distance and if this variability depends on the group of organisms considered. In the present study, we analyzed 30 grasslands from three neighboring chalk hill ridges in southern UK to determine the effect of geographic distance (1–198 km) on the similarity of bacterial communities and of nematode communities in the soil. We found that for both groups, community similarity decayed with distance and that this spatial pattern was not related to changes either in plant community composition or soil chemistry. Site history may have contributed to the observed pattern in the case of nematodes, since the distance effect depended on the presence of different nematode taxa at one of the hill ridges. On the other hand, site-related differences in bacterial community composition alone could not explain the spatial turnover, suggesting that other factors, such as biotic gradients and local dispersal processes that we did not include in our analysis, may be involved in the observed pattern. We conclude that, independently of the variety of causal factors that may be involved, the decay in similarity with geographic distance is a characteristic feature of both communities of soil bacteria and nematodes.
Monroy, F., Van der Putten, W. H., Yergeau, E., Mortimer, S. R., Duyts, H., & Bezemer, T. M. (2012). Community patterns of soil bacteria and nematodes in relation to geographic distance. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 45, 1-7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.soilbio.2011.10.006