Island biogeography theory is one of the most influential paradigms in ecology. That island characteristics, including remoteness, can profoundly modulate biological diversity has been borne out by studies of animals and plants. By contrast, the processes influencing microbial diversity in island systems remain largely undetermined. We sequenced arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal DNA from plant roots collected on 13 islands worldwide and compared AM fungal diversity on islands with existing data from mainland sites. AM fungal communities on islands (even those >6000 km from the closest mainland) comprised few endemic taxa and were as diverse as mainland communities. Thus, in contrast to patterns recorded among macro-organisms, efficient dispersal appears to outweigh the effects of taxogenesis and extinction in regulating AM fungal diversity on islands. Nonetheless, AM fungal communities on more distant islands comprised a higher proportion of previously cultured and large-spored taxa, indicating that dispersal may be human-mediated or require tolerance of significant environmental stress, such as exposure to sunlight or high salinity. The processes driving large-scale patterns of microbial diversity are a key consideration for attempts to conserve and restore functioning ecosystems in this era of rapid global change.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics