Source and acquisition of rhizosphere microbes in Antarctic vascular plants

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Frontiers in microbiology






South Shetland Islands; amplicon sequencing; host microbe interactions; microbial ecology and diversity; plant microbiome; rhizosphere effects


Rhizosphere microbial communities exert critical roles in plant health, nutrient cycling, and soil fertility. Despite the essential functions conferred by microbes, the source and acquisition of the rhizosphere are not entirely clear. Therefore, we investigated microbial community diversity and potential source using the only two native Antarctic plants, (Da) and (Cq), as models. We interrogated rhizosphere and bulk soil microbiomes at six locations in the Byers Peninsula, Livingston Island, Antarctica, both individual plant species and their association (Da.Cq). Our results show that host plant species influenced the richness and diversity of bacterial communities in the rhizosphere. Here, the Da rhizosphere showed the lowest richness and diversity of bacteria compared to Cq and Da.Cq rhizospheres. In contrast, for rhizosphere fungal communities, plant species only influenced diversity, whereas the rhizosphere of Da exhibited higher fungal diversity than the Cq rhizosphere. Also, we found that environmental geographic pressures (i.e., sampling site, latitude, and altitude) and, to a lesser extent, biotic factors (i.e., plant species) determined the species turnover between microbial communities. Moreover, our analysis shows that the sources of the bacterial communities in the rhizosphere were local soils that contributed to homogenizing the community composition of the different plant species growing in the same sampling site. In contrast, the sources of rhizosphere fungi were local (for Da and Da.Cq) and distant soils (for Cq). Here, the host plant species have a specific effect in acquiring fungal communities to the rhizosphere. However, the contribution of unknown sources to the fungal rhizosphere (especially in Da and Da.Cq) indicates the existence of relevant stochastic processes in acquiring these microbes. Our study shows that rhizosphere microbial communities differ in their composition and diversity. These differences are explained mainly by the microbial composition of the soils that harbor them, acting together with plant species-specific effects. Both plant species acquire bacteria from local soils to form part of their rhizosphere. Seemingly, the acquisition process is more complex for fungi. We identified a significant contribution from unknown fungal sources due to stochastic processes and known sources from soils across the Byers Peninsula.


Biostatistics and Bioinformatics