The chosen few—variations in common and rare soil bacteria across biomes

Samuel Bickel*, Dani Or

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Soil bacterial communities are dominated by a few abundant species, while their richness is associated with rare species with largely unknown ecological roles and biogeography. Analyses of previously published soil bacterial community data using a novel classification of common and rare bacteria indicate that only 0.4% of bacterial species can be considered common and are prevalent across biomes. The remaining bacterial species designated as rare are endemic with low relative abundances. Observations coupled with mechanistic models highlight the central role of soil wetness in shaping bacterial rarity. An individual-based model reveals systematic shifts in community composition induced by low carbon inputs in drier soils that deprive common species of exhibiting physiological advantages relative to other species. We find that only a “chosen few” common species shape bacterial communities across biomes; however, their contributions are curtailed in resource-limited environments where a larger number of rare species constitutes the soil microbiome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3315-3325
JournalThe ISME Journal
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2021
Externally publishedYes


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