Competition and predation as possible causes of bacterial rarity

Viola Kurm (Corresponding author), Wim H van der Putten, Simone Weidner, Stefan Geisen, Basten L Snoek, Tanja Bakx, W H Gera Hol

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We assembled communities of bacteria and exposed them to different nutrient concentrations with or without predation by protists. Taxa that were rare in the field were less abundant at low nutrient concentrations than common taxa, independent of predation. However, some taxa that were rare in the field became highly abundant in the assembled communities, especially under ample nutrient availability. This high abundance points at a possible competitive advantage of some rare bacterial taxa under nutrient-rich conditions. In contrast, the abundance of most rare bacterial taxa decreased at low resource availability. Since low resource availability will be the prevailing situation in most soils, our data suggests that under those conditions poor competitiveness for limiting resources may contribute to bacterial rarity. Interestingly, taxa that were rare in the field and most successful under predator-free conditions in the lab also tended to be more reduced by predation than common taxa. This suggests that predation contributes to rarity of bacterial taxa in the field. We further discuss whether there may be a trade-off between competitiveness and predation resistance. The substantial variability among taxa in their responses to competition and predation suggests that other factors, for example abiotic conditions and dispersal ability, also influence the local abundance of soil bacteria. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1356-1368
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number4
Early online date25 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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