Oligotrophic bacteria have been isolated from many habitats, yet environmental regulation of their distributions in soil has not been elucidated. To address the issue of environmental influence upon oligotrophic distributions, Chihuahuan Desert soils were sampled from five sites along an elevational and vegetational gradient within Big Bend National Park during January and August of 2002 and 2003. Soils were diluted and plated on oligotrophic media, and plates were incubated at 15, 25, 35, 45 and 60°C. Additionally, measurements of soil organic matter, pH, moisture, extractable nitrate, extractable ammonium and microbial biomass carbon were collected for each sample to relate oligotrophic bacterial distributions to soil nutrient and edaphic characteristics. Analysis of variance indicated significant site, season, incubation-temperature and interaction effects on total oligotroph numbers. Canonical correspondence analysis and multiple regressions indicated that all soil-chemistry variables significantly influenced discrete morphologies of oligotrophs. Oligotroph distributions were most congruent with soil-chemistry variation in three sites, whereas oligotrophic diversity in two sites did not adhere closely to measured environmental variables. While vegetation type may structure oligotroph communities at the two mid-elevational sites, abiotic constraints are drivers in low-desert sites.
- Big Bend National Park
- Chihuahuan Desert
- Culture-dependent microbiology
- Soil chemistry