Freshwater bacterioplankton richness in oligotrophic lakes depends on nutrient availability rather than on species-area relationships

ISME J. 2012 Jun;6(6):1127-36. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2011.184. Epub 2011 Dec 15.


A central goal in ecology is to grasp the mechanisms that underlie and maintain biodiversity and patterns in its spatial distribution can provide clues about those mechanisms. Here, we investigated what might determine the bacterioplankton richness (BR) in lakes by means of 454 pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. We further provide a BR estimate based upon a sampling depth and accuracy, which, to our knowledge, are unsurpassed for freshwater bacterioplankton communities. Our examination of 22,669 sequences per lake showed that freshwater BR in fourteen nutrient-poor lakes was positively influenced by nutrient availability. Our study is, thus, consistent with the finding that the supply of available nutrients is a major driver of species richness; a pattern that may well be universally valid to the world of both micro- and macro-organisms. We, furthermore, observed that BR increased with elevated landscape position, most likely as a consequence of differences in nutrient availability. Finally, BR decreased with increasing lake and catchment area that is negative species-area relationships (SARs) were recorded; a finding that re-opens the debate about whether positive SARs can indeed be found in the microbial world and whether positive SARs can in fact be pronounced as one of the few 'laws' in ecology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Biodiversity*
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Fresh Water / microbiology*
  • Lakes / microbiology
  • Plankton / classification*
  • Plankton / genetics
  • Plankton / metabolism
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sweden


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S