Original Article

Subject Category: Microbial population and community ecology

The ISME Journal (2013) 7, 1669–1677; doi:10.1038/ismej.2013.37; published online 21 March 2013

Corrected online: 20 August 2013

There is a Corrigendum (1 September 2013) associated with this article.

Global marine bacterial diversity peaks at high latitudes in winter

Joshua Ladau1, Thomas J Sharpton1, Mariel M Finucane1, Guillaume Jospin2, Steven W Kembel3, James O'Dwyer4, Alexander F Koeppel5, Jessica L Green3,4 and Katherine S Pollard1,6

  1. 1The Gladstone Institutes, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA
  2. 2Department of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
  3. 3Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA
  4. 4Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM, USA
  5. 5Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA
  6. 6Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute for Human Genetics, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

Correspondence: J Ladau, The Gladstone Institutes, University of California, 1650 Owens Street, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA. E-mail: joshua.ladau@gladstone.ucsf.edu

Received 21 December 2012; Revised 25 January 2013; Accepted 31 January 2013
Advance online publication 21 March 2013



Genomic approaches to characterizing bacterial communities are revealing significant differences in diversity and composition between environments. But bacterial distributions have not been mapped at a global scale. Although current community surveys are way too sparse to map global diversity patterns directly, there is now sufficient data to fit accurate models of how bacterial distributions vary across different environments and to make global scale maps from these models. We apply this approach to map the global distributions of bacteria in marine surface waters. Our spatially and temporally explicit predictions suggest that bacterial diversity peaks in temperate latitudes across the world’s oceans. These global peaks are seasonal, occurring 6 months apart in the two hemispheres, in the boreal and austral winters. This pattern is quite different from the tropical, seasonally consistent diversity patterns observed for most macroorganisms. However, like other marine organisms, surface water bacteria are particularly diverse in regions of high human environmental impacts on the oceans. Our maps provide the first picture of bacterial distributions at a global scale and suggest important differences between the diversity patterns of bacteria compared with other organisms.

This article has been corrected since Advance Online Publication and a corrigendum is also printed in this issue


bacteria; marine; species distribution model; niche model; diversity gradient; range map