Brief Communication | Published:

Ant colonies promote the diversity of soil microbial communities

The ISME Journal (2019) | Download Citation


Little is known about the role of ant colonies in regulating the distribution and diversity of soil microbial communities across large spatial scales. Here, we conducted a survey across >1000 km in eastern Australia and found that, compared with surrounding bare soils, ant colonies promoted the richness (number of phylotypes) and relative abundance of rare taxa of fungi and bacteria. Ant nests were also an important reservoir for plant pathogens. Our study also provides a portfolio of microbial phylotypes only found in ant nests, and which are associated with high nutrient availability. Together, our work highlights the fact that ant nests are an important refugia for microbial diversity.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 702057. This research is supported by the Australian Research Council project DP170104634.

Author information


  1. Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, 80309, USA

    • Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo
  2. Departamento de Biología y Geología, Física y Química Inorgánica, Escuela Superior de Ciencias Experimentales y Tecnología, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Calle Tulipán Sin Número, Móstoles, 28933, Spain

    • Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo
  3. Centre for Ecosystem Studies, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, 2052, Australia

    • David J. Eldridge
  4. Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney, Penrith, NSW, 2751, Australia

    • Kelly Hamonts
    •  & Brajesh K. Singh
  5. Global Centre for Land Based Innovation, University of Western Sydney, Building L9, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith South, NSW, 2751, Australia

    • Brajesh K. Singh


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M.D-B. conceived the idea of this study. M.D-B. and D.J.E. conducted soil samplings. B.K.S. provided Illumina data. K.H. conducted bioinformatics analyses. M.D-B. conducted statistical modeling. The manuscript was written by M.D-B, edited by D.J.E., and all co-authors significantly contributed to improve it.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo.

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