A macroecological theory of microbial biodiversity
- Subject Areas
- Biodiversity, Ecology, Microbiology
- biodiversity, macroecology, microbial ecology, maxent, zipf, broken-stick, earth microbiome project, human microbiome project, species abundance distribution, lognormal
- © 2016 Shoemaker et al.
- This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ Preprints) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.
- Cite this article
- 2016. A macroecological theory of microbial biodiversity. PeerJ Preprints 4:e1450v4 https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.1450v4
Microorganisms are the most abundant, diverse, and functionally important organisms on Earth. Over the past decade, microbial ecologists have produced the largest ever community datasets. However, these data are rarely used to uncover law-like patterns of commonness and rarity, test theories of biodiversity, or explore unifying explanations for the structure of microbial communities. Using a global-scale compilation of >20,000 samples from environmental, engineered, and host-related ecosystems, we test the power of competing theories to predict distributions of microbial abundance and diversity-abundance scaling laws. We show that these patterns are best explained by the synergistic interaction of stochastic processes that are captured by lognormal dynamics. We demonstrate that lognormal dynamics have predictive power across scales of abundance, a criterion that is essential to biodiversity theory. By understanding the multiplicative and stochastic nature of ecological processes, scientists can better understand the structure and dynamics of Earth’s largest and most diverse ecological systems.
While the results and findings have not changed, the manuscript was heavily revised for readability and clarity.