Spatial patterns in biofilm diversity across hierarchical levels of river-floodplain landscapes

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Peipoch, M., R. Jones, and H. M. Valett. 2015. PLoS ONE 10(12):e0144303.

doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144303


River-floodplain systems are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems, but the effects of biophysical complexity at multiple scales on microbial biodiversity have not been studied. Here, we investigated how the hierarchical organization of river systems (i.e., region, floodplain, zone, habitats, and microhabitats) influences epilithic biofilm community assemblage patterns by characterizing microbial communities using 16S rRNA gene sequence data and analyzing bacterial species distribution across local and regional scales. Results indicate that regional and local environmental filters concurrently sort bacterial species, suggesting that spatial configuration of epilithic biofilms resembles patterns of larger organisms in floodplain ecosystems. Along the hierarchical organization of fluvial systems, floodplains constitute a vector of maximum environmental heterogeneity and consequently act as a major landscape filter for biofilm species. Thus, river basins and associated floodplains may simply reflect very large scale ‘patches’ within which environmental conditions select for community composition of epilithic biofilms.

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