Cave microbial community composition in oceanic islands: disentangling the effect of different colored mats in diversity patterns of Azorean lava caves


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December 2015


Processes determining diversity and composition of bacterial communities in island volcanic caves are still poorly understood. Here, we characterized colored microbial mats in 14 volcanic caves from two oceanic islands of the Azores using 16S rRNA gene sequences. Factors determining community diversity (α) and composition (β) were explored, namely colored mats, caves and islands, as well as environmental and chemical characteristics of caves. Additive partitioning of diversity using OTU occurrence showed a greater influence of β-diversity between islands and caves that may relate to differences in rare OTUs (singletons and doubletons) across scales. In contrast, Shannon diversity partitioning revealed the importance of the lowest hierarchical level (α diversity, colored mat), suggesting a dominance of cosmopolitan OTUs (>1%) in most samples. Cosmopolitan OTUs included members involved in nitrogen cycling, supporting the importance of this process in Azorean caves. Environmental and chemical conditions in caves did not show any significant relationship to OTU diversity and composition. The absence of clear differences between mat colors and across scales may be explained by (1) the geological youth of the cave system (cave communities have not had enough time to diverge) or/and (2) community convergence, as the result of selection pressure in extreme environments.


Bacterial Diversity, Additive Partitioning, Lava Cave, Sampling Grain, Levels Of Organization, Azores

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FEMS Microbiology Ecology, Vol. 91, no. 12 (2015-12-01).