Patterns and governing forces in aquatic microbial communities

s.c. Nold, G. Zwart

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    In this review we survey recent publications employing molecular techniques to investigate the distribution of microbial species in aquatic environments. We analyzed the occurrence of microbial phyla in freshwater and marine habitats and observed patterns of distribution that could be explained by the adaptation of microorganisms to physical and biological parameters that vary in aquatic habitats. The gram-positive bacteria, the Verrucomicrobiales and the a- and ?-subdivisions of the Proteobacteria are distributed throughout a range of aquatic habitats, while other phylogenetic groups appear to be adapted to more narrowly defined environmental niches such as anoxic water and sediments (d-Proteobacteria) or floating aggregates (Cytophaga-Flexibacter-Bacteroides phylum). ß-proteobacterial sequence types have been detected throughout freshwater habitats, but these organisms are largely absent from open ocean environments. Within several of these divisions, clusters of closely related small sub unit ribosomal RNA sequence types have been detected in geographically disparate environments, suggesting that some microbial species are globally distributed. In addition to physical variables such as salinity and pH, biological variables also influence microbial community composition. This was illustrated by changes that occurred in the eukaryotic and bacterial species composition in laboratory mesocosms after a viral outburst. We conclude that physical and biological forces govern the composition of aquatic microbial communities and result in divergent evolutionary histories of the indigenous microbial species. [KEYWORDS: bacteria, community composition, diversity, freshwater, marine, ribosomal RNA]
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)17-35
    JournalAquatic Ecology
    Publication statusPublished - 1998


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