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Resource–diversity relationships in bacterial communities reflect the network structure of microbial metabolism
Nature Ecology & Evolution  (IF15.46),  Pub Date : 2021-08-19, DOI: 10.1038/s41559-021-01535-8
Dal Bello, Martina, Lee, Hyunseok, Goyal, Akshit, Gore, Jeff

The relationship between the number of available nutrients and community diversity is a central question in ecological research that remains unanswered. Here we studied the assembly of hundreds of soil-derived microbial communities on a wide range of well-defined resource environments, from single carbon sources to combinations of up to 16. We found that, while single resources supported multispecies communities varying from 8 to 40 taxa, mean community richness increased only one-by-one with additional resources. Cross-feeding could reconcile these seemingly contrasting observations, with the metabolic network seeded by the supplied resources explaining the changes in richness due to both the identity and the number of resources, as well as the distribution of taxa across different communities. By using a consumer–resource model incorporating the inferred cross-feeding network, we provide further theoretical support to our observations and a framework to link the type and number of environmental resources to microbial community diversity.