A Hump-Backed Trend in Bacterial Diversity with Elevation on Mount Fuji, Japan
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- Singh, D., Takahashi, K., Kim, M. et al. Microb Ecol (2012) 63: 429. doi:10.1007/s00248-011-9900-1
Little is known of how bacterial diversity in soils varies with elevation. One previous study found a decline with elevation, whereas another found no trend. We chose Mount Fuji of Japan as a geologically and topographically simple mountain system. Samples were taken at elevational intervals, between the base of the mountain at 1,000 m and its summit at 3,700 m. Polymerase chain reaction-amplified soil DNA for the bacterial 16S gene targeting V1–V3 region was pyrosequenced using the 454 Roche machine, and taxonomically classified with reference to a bioinformatic database. There was a significant “peak” in total bacterial diversity at around 2,500 m above the tree line with a decline towards the highest elevations around 3,700 m near the summit. Individual bacterial phyla show distinct trends—increase, decrease, or a mid-elevational “bulge” in diversity. Bacterial diversity does not parallel woody plant or herbaceous plant diversity. We suggest that beyond the tree and vegetation line, the more extreme temperature fluctuations, stronger UV, lack of nutrients, and more frequent disturbance of the loose substrate of these slopes allows less competition and greater bacterial species diversity due to “lottery” recruitment. However, at the highest elevations, the physiological challenges are so extreme that fewer bacterial species are capable of surviving.