A comparison of taxon co-occurrence patterns for macro- and microorganisms

Ecology. 2007 Jun;88(6):1345-53. doi: 10.1890/06-0286.


We examine co-occurrence patterns of microorganisms to evaluate community assembly "rules". We use methods previously applied to macroorganisms, both to evaluate their applicability to microorganisms and to allow comparison of co-occurrence patterns observed in microorganisms to those found in macroorganisms. We use a null model analysis of 124 incidence matrices from microbial communities, including bacteria, archaea, fungi, and algae, and we compare these results to previously published findings from a meta-analysis of almost 100 macroorganism data sets. We show that assemblages of microorganisms demonstrate nonrandom patterns of co-occurrence that are broadly similar to those found in assemblages of macroorganisms. These results suggest that some taxon co-occurrence patterns may be general characteristics of communities of organisms from all domains of life. We also find that co-occurrence in microbial communities does not vary among taxonomic groups or habitat types. However, we find that the degree of co-occurrence does vary among studies that use different methods to survey microbial communities. Finally, we discuss the potential effects of the undersampling of microbial communities on our results, as well as processes that may contribute to nonrandom patterns of co-occurrence in both macrobial and microbial communities such as competition, habitat filtering, historical effects, and neutral processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environment
  • Geography
  • Models, Biological*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Species Specificity