The severe environmental stresses of the Arctic may have promoted unique soil bacterial communities compared with those found in lower latitude environments. Here, we present a comprehensive analysis of the biogeography of soil bacterial communities in the Arctic using a high resolution bar-coded pyrosequencing technique. We also compared arctic soils with soils from a wide range of more temperate biomes to characterize variability in soil bacterial communities across the globe. We show that arctic soil bacterial community composition and diversity are structured according to local variation in soil pH rather than geographical proximity to neighboring sites, suggesting that local environmental heterogeneity is far more important than dispersal limitation in determining community-level differences. Furthermore, bacterial community composition had similar levels of variability, richness and phylogenetic diversity within arctic soils as across soils from a wide range of lower latitudes, strongly suggesting a common diversity structure within soil bacterial communities around the globe. These results contrast with the well-established latitudinal gradients in animal and plant diversity, suggesting that the controls on bacterial community distributions are fundamentally different from those observed for macro-organisms and that our biome definitions are not useful for predicting variability in soil bacterial communities across the globe.
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