Environmental adaptation is stronger for abundant rather than rare microorganisms in wetland soils from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

Wenjie Wan, Geoffrey Michael Gadd, Yuyi Yang*, Wenke Yuan, Jidong Gu, Luping Ye, Wenzhi Liu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Disentangling the biogeographic patterns of rare and abundant microbes is essential in order to understand the generation and maintenance of microbial diversity with respect to the functions they provide. However, little is known about ecological assembly processes and environmental adaptation of rare and abundant microbes across large spatial-scale wetlands. Using Illumina sequencing and multiple statistical analyses, we characterized the taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity of rare and abundant bacteria and fungi in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau wetland soils. Abundant microbial taxa exhibited broader environmental thresholds and stronger phylogenetic signals for ecological traits than rare ones. By contrast, rare taxa showed higher sensitivity to environmental changes and closer phylogenetic clustering than abundant ones. The null model analysis revealed that dispersal limitation belonging to stochastic process dominated community assemblies of abundant bacteria, and rare and abundant fungi, while variable selection belonging to deterministic process governed community assembly of rare bacteria. Neutral model analysis and variation partitioning analysis further confirmed that abundant microbes were less environmentally constrained. Soil ammonia nitrogen was the crucial factor in mediating the balance between stochasticity and determinism of both rare and abundant microbes. Abundant microbes may have better environmental adaptation potential and are less dispersed by environmental changes than rare ones. Our findings extend knowledge of the adaptation of rare and abundant microbes to ongoing environmental change and could facilitate prediction of biodiversity loss caused probably by climate change and human activity in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau wetlands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2390-2403
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2021


  • biogeographic pattern
  • environmental thresholds
  • microbial diversity
  • phylogenetic signals
  • stochasticity versus determinism


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