Microbial Ecology

, Volume 72, Issue 1, pp 221–230 | Cite as

Environmental Filtering Process Has More Important Roles than Dispersal Limitation in Shaping Large-Scale Prokaryotic Beta Diversity Patterns of Grassland Soils

  • Peng Cao
  • Jun-Tao Wang
  • Hang-Wei Hu
  • Yuan-Ming Zheng
  • Yuan Ge
  • Ju-Pei ShenEmail author
  • Ji-Zheng HeEmail author
Soil Microbiology


Despite the utmost importance of microorganisms in maintaining ecosystem functioning and their ubiquitous distribution, our knowledge of the large-scale pattern of microbial diversity is limited, particularly in grassland soils. In this study, the microbial communities of 99 soil samples spanning over 3000 km across grassland ecosystems in northern China were investigated using high-throughput sequencing to analyze the beta diversity pattern and the underlying ecological processes. The microbial communities were dominated by Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Acidobacteria, Chloroflexi, and Planctomycetes across all the soil samples. Spearman’s correlation analysis indicated that climatic factors and soil pH were significantly correlated with the dominant microbial taxa, while soil microbial richness was positively linked to annual precipitation. The environmental divergence–dissimilarity relationship was significantly positive, suggesting the importance of environmental filtering processes in shaping soil microbial communities. Structural equation modeling found that the deterministic process played a more important role than the stochastic process on the pattern of soil microbial beta diversity, which supported the predictions of niche theory. Partial mantel test analysis have showed that the contribution of independent environmental variables has a significant effect on beta diversity, while independent spatial distance has no such relationship, confirming that the deterministic process was dominant in structuring soil microbial communities. Overall, environmental filtering process has more important roles than dispersal limitation in shaping microbial beta diversity patterns in the grassland soils.


Beta diversity Richness Dispersal limitation Environmental filtering Grassland Soil microbial communities 



This work was supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology 2013CB956300 and Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDB15020200, STSN-21-02) and the Natural Science Foundation of China (41230857). We are very grateful to Peng Han, Liang Xiang, Dr. Jing Li, Prof. Baodong Chen, and Prof. Weiping Chen for their assistance in soil sampling and analyzing.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins of Chinese Academy of SciencesInstitute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural SciencesThe University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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