A meta-analysis of changes in bacterial and archaeal communities with time

Ashley Shade, J. Gregory Caporaso, Jo Handelsman, Rob Knight, Noah Fierer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

279 Scopus citations


Ecologists have long studied the temporal dynamics of plant and animal communities with much less attention paid to the temporal dynamics exhibited by microbial communities. As a result, we do not know if overarching temporal trends exist for microbial communities or if changes in microbial communities are generally predictable with time. Using microbial time series assessed via high-throughput sequencing, we conducted a meta-analysis of temporal dynamics in microbial communities, including 76 sites representing air, aquatic, soil, brewery wastewater treatment, human- and plant-associated microbial biomes. We found that temporal variability in both within- and between-community diversity was consistent among microbial communities from similar environments. Community structure changed systematically with time in less than half of the cases, and the highest rates of change were observed within ranges of 1 day to 1 month for all communities examined. Microbial communities exhibited species-time relationships (STRs), which describe the accumulation of new taxa to a community, similar to those observed previously for plant and animal communities, suggesting that STRs are remarkably consistent across a broad range of taxa. These results highlight that a continued integration of microbial ecology into the broader field of ecology will provide new insight into the temporal patterns of microbial and 'macro'-bial communities alike.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1493-1506
Number of pages14
JournalISME Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • 16S rRNA
  • Beta diversity
  • Hhigh-throughput sequencing
  • Similarity-decay
  • Species-time relationship
  • Turnover

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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