, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 329–337 | Cite as

Hypolithic and soil microbial community assembly along an aridity gradient in the Namib Desert

  • Francesca Stomeo
  • Angel Valverde
  • Stephen B. Pointing
  • Christopher P. McKay
  • Kimberley A. Warren-Rhodes
  • Marla I. Tuffin
  • Mary Seely
  • Don A. Cowan
Original Paper


The Namib Desert is considered the oldest desert in the world and hyperarid for the last 5 million years. However, the environmental buffering provided by quartz and other translucent rocks supports extensive hypolithic microbial communities. In this study, open soil and hypolithic microbial communities have been investigated along an East–West transect characterized by an inverse fog-rainfall gradient. Multivariate analysis showed that structurally different microbial communities occur in soil and in hypolithic zones. Using variation partitioning, we found that hypolithic communities exhibited a fog-related distribution as indicated by the significant East–West clustering. Sodium content was also an important environmental factor affecting the composition of both soil and hypolithic microbial communities. Finally, although null models for patterns in microbial communities were not supported by experimental data, the amount of unexplained variation (68–97 %) suggests that stochastic processes also play a role in the assembly of such communities in the Namib Desert.


Bacteria Cyanobacteria Hypoliths Namib Desert Niche Soils 



The authors gratefully acknowledge F.D. Eckardt for providing Fig. 1a, and the National Research Foundation (South Africa) for support of this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesca Stomeo
    • 1
    • 6
  • Angel Valverde
    • 1
    • 5
  • Stephen B. Pointing
    • 2
  • Christopher P. McKay
    • 3
  • Kimberley A. Warren-Rhodes
    • 3
  • Marla I. Tuffin
    • 1
  • Mary Seely
    • 4
  • Don A. Cowan
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Institute for Microbial Biotechnology and Metagenomics (IMBM)University of the Western CapeCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of Applied SciencesAuckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.NASA-Ames Research CenterMoffett FieldUSA
  4. 4.Desert Research Foundation of NamibiaWindhoekNamibia
  5. 5.Department of Genetics, Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics (CMEG)University of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa
  6. 6.Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) HubNairobiKenya

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