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Summary

The classical view states that microbial biogeography is not affected by dispersal barriers or historical events, but only influenced by the local contemporary habitat conditions (species sorting). This has been challenged during recent years by studies suggesting that also regional factors such as mass effect, dispersal limitation and neutral assembly are important for the composition of local bacterial communities. Here we summarize results from biogeography studies in different environments, i.e. in marine, freshwater and soil as well in human hosts. Species sorting appears to be the most important mechanism. However, this result might be biased since this is the mechanism that is easiest to measure, detect and interpret. Hence, the importance of regional factors may have been underestimated. Moreover, our survey indicates that different assembly mechanisms might be important for different parts of the total community, differing, for example, between generalists and specialists, and between taxa of different dispersal ability and motility. We conclude that there is a clear need for experimental studies, first, to clearly separate regional and local factors in order to study their relative importance, and second, to test whether there are differences in assembly mechanisms depending on different taxonomic or functional groups.