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Keywords:

  • Dormancy;
  • ecological neutral theory;
  • equilibrium theory;
  • island biogeography;
  • microbial biogeography;
  • microbial ecology

Abstract

The discovery of biogeographical patterns among microbial communities has led to a focus on the empirical evaluation of the importance of dispersal limitation in microbial biota. As a result, the spatial distribution of microbial diversity has been increasingly studied while the synthesis of biogeographical theory with microbial ecology remains undeveloped. To make biogeographical theory relevant to microbial ecology, microbial traits that potentially affect the distribution of microbial diversity need to be considered. Given that many microorganisms in natural environments are in a state of dormancy and that dormancy is an important microbial fitness trait, I provide a first attempt to account for the effects of dormancy on microbial biogeography by treating dormancy as a fundamental biogeographical response. I discuss the effects of dormancy on the equilibrium theory of island biogeography and on the unified neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeography, and suggest how the equilibrium theory of island biogeography can produce predictions approaching those of the Baas-Becking hypothesis (i.e. everything is everywhere, but the environment selects). In addition, I present a conceptual model of the unified neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeography, generalized to account for dormancy, from which a full model can be constructed for species with or without dormant life history stages.