A phylogenetic perspective on species diversity, β-diversity and biogeography for the microbial world

Albert Barberán, Emilio O. Casamayor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


There is an increasing interest to combine phylogenetic data with distributional and ecological records to assess how natural communities arrange under an evolutionary perspective. In the microbial world, there is also a need to go beyond the problematic species definition to deeply explore ecological patterns using genetic data. We explored links between evolution/phylogeny and community ecology using bacterial 16S rRNA gene information from a high-Altitude lakes district data set. We described phylogenetic community composition, spatial distribution, and β-diversity and biogeographical patterns applying evolutionary relatedness without relying on any particular operational taxonomic unit definition. High-Altitude lakes districts usually contain a large mosaic of highly diverse small water bodies and conform a fine biogeographical model of spatially close but environmentally heterogeneous ecosystems. We sampled 18 lakes in the Pyrenees with a selection criteria focused on capturing the maximum environmental variation within the smallest geographical area. The results showed highly diverse communities nonrandomly distributed with phylogenetic β-diversity patterns mainly shaped by the environment and not by the spatial distance. Community similarity based on both bacterial taxonomic composition and phylogenetic β-diversity shared similar patterns and was primarily structured by similar environmental drivers. We observed a positive relationship between lake area and phylogenetic diversity with a slope consistent with highly dispersive planktonic organisms. The phylogenetic approach incorporated patterns of common ancestry into bacterial community analysis and emerged as a very convenient analytical tool for direct inter- and intrabiome biodiversity comparisons and sorting out microbial habitats with potential application in conservation studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5868-5876
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • bacteria
  • community ecology
  • environmental DNA
  • microbial ecology
  • phylogenetic diversity
  • phylogeography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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