Spatial scale impacts microbial community composition and distribution within and across stream ecosystems in North and Central America

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Bier, R.L., J.J. Mosher, L.A. Kaplan, and J. Kan. 2023. Environmental Microbiology 25(10): 1860–1874.

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A mechanistic understanding of factors that structure spatiotemporal community composition is a major challenge in microbial ecology. Our study of microbial communities in the headwaters of three freshwater stream networks showed significant community changes at the small spatial scale of benthic habitats when compared to changes at mid- and large-spatial scales associated with stream order and catchment. Catchment (which included temperate and tropical catchments) had the strongest influence on community composition followed by habitat type (epipsammon or epilithon) and stream orders. Alpha diversity of benthic microbiomes resulted from interactions between catchment, habitat, and canopy. Epilithon contained relatively more Cyanobacteria and algae while Acidobacteria and Actinobacteria proportions were higher in epipsammic habitats. Turnover from replacement created ~60%–95% of beta diversity differences among habitats, stream orders, and catchments. Turnover within a habitat type generally decreased downstream indicating longitudinal linkages in stream networks while between habitat turnover also shaped benthic microbial community assembly. Our study suggests that factors influencing microbial community composition shift in dominance across spatial scales, with habitat dominating locally and catchment dominating globally.