Original Article

Subject Category: Microbial population and community ecology

The ISME Journal (2009) 3, 305–313; doi:10.1038/ismej.2008.106; published online 6 November 2008

Diversity rankings among bacterial lineages in soil

Noha H Youssef1 and Mostafa S Elshahed1

1Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA

Correspondence: MS Elshahed, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Oklahoma State University, 1110 S Innovation Way, Stillwater, OK 74074, USA. E-mail: mostafa@okstate.edu

Received 12 August 2008; Revised 6 October 2008; Accepted 8 October 2008; Published online 6 November 2008.



We used rarefaction curve analysis and diversity ordering-based approaches to rank the 11 most frequently encountered bacterial lineages in soil according to diversity in 5 previously reported 16S rRNA gene clone libraries derived from agricultural, undisturbed tall grass prairie and forest soils (n=26,140, 28328, 31818, 13001 and 53533). The Planctomycetes, Firmicutes and the δ-Proteobacteria were consistently ranked among the most diverse lineages in all data sets, whereas the Verrucomicrobia, Gemmatimonadetes and β-Proteobacteria were consistently ranked among the least diverse. On the other hand, the rankings of α-Proteobacteria, Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes and Chloroflexi varied widely in different soil clone libraries. In general, lineages exhibiting largest differences in diversity rankings also exhibited the largest difference in relative abundance in the data sets examined. Within these lineages, a positive correlation between relative abundance and diversity was observed within the Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria and Chloroflexi, and a negative diversity–abundance correlation was observed within the Bacteroidetes. The ecological and evolutionary implications of these results are discussed.


soil bacterial diversity, rarefaction curve analysis, diversity ordering


These links to content published by NPG are automatically generated.


Microbiology The inside story

Nature News and Views (02 Aug 2007)