Lifting the veil on arid-to-hyperarid Antarctic soil microbiomes: a tale of two oases.

Research paper by Eden E Zhang, Loïc M LM Thibaut, Aleks A Terauds, Mark M Raven, Mark M MM Tanaka, Josie J van Dorst, Sin Yin SY Wong, Sally S Crane, Belinda C BC Ferrari

Indexed on: 18 Mar '20Published on: 18 Mar '20Published in: Microbiome


Resident soil microbiota play key roles in sustaining the core ecosystem processes of terrestrial Antarctica, often involving unique taxa with novel functional traits. However, the full scope of biodiversity and the niche-neutral processes underlying these communities remain unclear. In this study, we combine multivariate analyses, co-occurrence networks and fitted species abundance distributions on an extensive set of bacterial, micro-eukaryote and archaeal amplicon sequencing data to unravel soil microbiome patterns of nine sites across two east Antarctic regions, the Vestfold Hills and Windmill Islands. To our knowledge, this is the first microbial biodiversity report on the hyperarid Vestfold Hills soil environment. Our findings reveal distinct regional differences in phylogenetic composition, abundance and richness amongst microbial taxa. Actinobacteria dominated soils in both regions, yet Bacteroidetes were more abundant in the Vestfold Hills compared to the Windmill Islands, which contained a high abundance of novel phyla. However, intra-region comparisons demonstrate greater homogeneity of soil microbial communities and measured environmental parameters between sites at the Vestfold Hills. Community richness is largely driven by a variable suite of parameters but robust associations between co-existing members highlight potential interactions and sharing of niche space by diverse taxa from all three microbial domains of life examined. Overall, non-neutral processes appear to structure the polar soil microbiomes studied here, with niche partitioning being particularly strong for bacterial communities at the Windmill Islands. Eukaryotic and archaeal communities reveal weaker niche-driven signatures accompanied by multimodality, suggesting the emergence of neutrality. We provide new information on assemblage patterns, environmental drivers and non-random occurrences for Antarctic soil microbiomes, particularly the Vestfold Hills, where basic diversity, ecology and life history strategies of resident microbiota are largely unknown. Greater understanding of these basic ecological concepts is a pivotal step towards effective conservation management.