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    Do Patterns of Bacterial Diversity along Salinity Gradients Differ from Those Observed for Macroorganisms?

    Wang, J, Yang, D, Zhang, Y, Shen, J, van der Gast, C, Hahn, MW and Wu, Q (2011) Do Patterns of Bacterial Diversity along Salinity Gradients Differ from Those Observed for Macroorganisms? PLoS ONE, 6 (11). ISSN 1932-6203


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    It is widely accepted that biodiversity is lower in more extreme environments. In this study, we sought to determine whether this trend, well documented for macroorganisms, also holds at the microbial level for bacteria. We used denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) with phylum-specific primers to quantify the taxon richness (i.e., the DGGE band numbers) of the bacterioplankton communities of 32 pristine Tibetan lakes that represent a broad salinity range (freshwater to hypersaline). For the lakes investigated, salinity was found to be the environmental variable with the strongest influence on the bacterial community composition. We found that the bacterial taxon richness in freshwater habitats increased with increasing salinity up to a value of 1%. In saline systems (systems with .1% salinity), the expected decrease of taxon richness along a gradient of further increasing salinity was not observed. These patterns were consistently observed for two sets of samples taken in two different years. A comparison of 16S rRNA gene clone libraries revealed that the bacterial community of the lake with the highest salinity was characterized by a higher recent accelerated diversification than the community of a freshwater lake, whereas the phylogenetic diversity in the hypersaline lake was lower than that in the freshwater lake. These results suggest that different evolutionary forces may act on bacterial populations in freshwater and hypersaline lakes on the Tibetan Plateau, potentially resulting in different community structures and diversity patterns.

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