Microbiome assembly predictably shapes diversity across a range of disturbance frequencies
Reference: bioRxiv: 2021.2008.2002.454702.

Diversity is frequently linked to the functional stability of ecological communities. However, its association with assembly mechanisms remains largely unknown, particularly under fluctuating disturbances. Here, we subjected complex bacterial communities in bioreactor microcosms to different frequencies of organic loading shocks, tracking temporal dynamics in their assembly, structure and function. Null modelling revealed a stronger role of stochasticity at intermediate disturbance frequencies, preceding the formation of a peak in α-diversity. Communities at extreme ends of the disturbance range had the lowest α-diversity and highest within-treatment similarity in terms of β-diversity, with stronger deterministic assembly. Stochasticity prevailed during the initial successional stages, coinciding with better specialized function (nitrogen removal). In contrast, general functions (carbon removal and microbial aggregate settleability) benefited from stronger deterministic processes. We showed that changes in assembly processes predictably precede changes in diversity under a gradient of disturbance frequencies, advancing our understanding of the mechanisms behind disturbance-diversity-function relationships.

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