Spatial heterogeneity of a microbial community in a sandy soil ecosystem

Varsik Martirosyan, Racheli Ehrlich, Yaffa Frend, Gineta Barness, Yosef Steinberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


A fieldwork was carried out in Caesarea sand dunes, Israel, to determine the influence of fine-scale landscape-patch abiotic-factor heterogeneity on microbial activity in a Mediterranean region. Soil organisms in terrestrial systems are unevenly distributed in time and space, and are often aggregated. Spatio-temporal patchiness in the soil environment is thought to be crucial for the maintenance of soil biodiversity, providing diverse microhabitats that are tightly interwoven with resource partitioning. Determination of a 'scale unit' to help understand ecological processes has become one of the important and most debatable problems in recent years. To better understand the distribution of soil microbial communities at multiple spatial scales, a survey was conducted to examine the spatial organization of the community structure in two sandy soil ecosystems. One-hundred forty-four soil samples were collected from two patches 4000m apart from each other. Basal respiration (CO2 evolution without the addition of any external substrate), microbial biomass, functional diversity, and community-level physiological profile (CLPP) in soil were measured with a MicroResp™ system. Soil abiotic analysis was performed by soil standard analytical methods. The results demonstrated that bacterial distributions can be highly structured, even within a habitat that appears to be relatively homogeneous at the plot and field scale. Different subsets of the microbial community were distributed differently across the plot. This is due to spatial heterogeneity associated with soil physical, chemical, and biological properties. Although spatial variability in the distribution of soil microorganisms is generally regarded as random, this variability often has a predictable spatial structure. This study provided evidence that a spatially explicit approach to soil ecology can enable the identification of factors that drive the spatial heterogeneity of populations and activities of soil organisms, at scales ranging from meters to hundreds of meters. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that spatial soil ecology can yield new insights into the factors that maintain and regulate soil biodiversity, as well as on how the spatial distribution of soil organisms influences plant growth and plant community structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-203
Number of pages9
Issue number4-6
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • CO evolution
  • Heterogeneity
  • Multi-scale variation
  • Sandy soil ecosystem


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