Resource availability influences the diversity of a functional group of heterotrophic soil bacteria

Silke Langenheder, James I Prosser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Resource availability is a key factor regulating biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, but the relationship between resource availability and diversity has only been rarely investigated in microbial communities. The aim of this study was to determine how diversity and community structure of a functional group of soil bacteria are influenced by resource concentration. To achieve this, we used soil microcosms to investigate degradation of benzoate, which served as a model compound, by soil bacterial communities. Microcosms were supplied with (13)C-labelled benzoate at four concentrations and RNA-stable isotope probing followed by molecular fingerprinting analysis of 16S rRNA genes was employed to identify bacteria able to assimilate benzoate at different concentrations. The composition of the benzoate degrader community differed at different concentrations and there was a significant decrease in taxa evenness at the highest substrate concentration. Active organisms could be grouped into generalists, occurring at all substrate concentrations, specialists, active at one particular benzoate concentration only, and taxa that were active at either the two lowest or two highest concentrations. The study comprises the first explicit demonstration that resource availability has an effect on the diversity of a functional group of heterotrophic soil bacteria.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2245-2256
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number9
Early online date9 May 2008
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2008


  • Bacteria
  • Benzoates
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Biodiversity
  • DNA Fingerprinting
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genes, rRNA
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Population Dynamics
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Soil Microbiology
  • Time Factors


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