Trends in Taxonomic and Functional Composition of Soil Microbiome Along a Precipitation Gradient in Israel


The soil microbiome is important for the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. However, the impacts of climate on taxonomic and functional diversity of soil microbiome are not well understood. A precipitation gradient along regional scale transects may offer a model setting for understanding the effect of climate on the composition and function of the soil microbiome. Here, we compared taxonomic and functional attributes of soil microorganisms in arid, semiarid, Mediterranean, and humid Mediterranean climatic conditions of Israel using shotgun metagenomic sequencing. We hypothesized that there would be a distinct taxonomic and functional soil community for each precipitation zone, with arid environments having lower taxonomic and functional diversity, greater relative abundance of stress response and sporulation-related genes, and lower relative abundance of genes related to nutrient cycling and degradation of complex organic compounds. As hypothesized, our results showed a distinct taxonomic and functional community in each precipitation zone, revealing differences in soil taxonomic and functional selection in the different climates. Although the taxonomic diversity remained similar across all sites, the functional diversity was—as hypothesized—lower in the arid environments, suggesting that functionality is more constrained in “extreme” environments. Also, with increasing aridity, we found a significant increase in genes related to dormancy/sporulation and a decrease in those related to nutrient cycling (genes related to nitrogen, potassium, and sulfur metabolism), respectively. However, relative abundance of genes related to stress response were lower in arid soils. Overall, these results indicate that climatic conditions play an important role in shaping taxonomic and functional attributes of soil microbiome. These findings have important implications for understanding the impacts of climate change (e.g., precipitation change) on structure and function of the soil microbiome.

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This work was supported by the Korea Research Fellowship Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (2015H1D3A1066568). This research was conducted under the financial support from the NRF funded by the Korean Government, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) (NRF-0409-20150076).

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Correspondence to Jonathan M. Adams or Yosef Steinberger.

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Binu M. Tripathi and Itumeleng Moroenyane equally contributed to the work

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Tripathi, B.M., Moroenyane, I., Sherman, C. et al. Trends in Taxonomic and Functional Composition of Soil Microbiome Along a Precipitation Gradient in Israel. Microb Ecol 74, 168–176 (2017).

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  • Taxonomic and functional composition
  • Soil microbiome
  • Israel