Consistent bacterial selection by date palm root system across heterogeneous desert oasis agroecosystems

María José Mosqueira Santillán, Ramona Marasco, Marco Fusi, Gregoire Michoud, Giuseppe Merlino, Ameur Cherif, Daniele Daffonchio

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27 Scopus citations


Highly productive conventional agroecosystems are spatially embedded in resource-homogeneous systems and count on generally nutrient-rich soils. On the contrary, desert oases are isolated, the soil is relatively poor, but yet productivity is similar to conventional agroecosystems. Soil dominates over plant as the main factor shaping root-associated microbiomes in conventional agroecosystems. We hypothesize that in desert oasis, the environmental discontinuity, the resource paucity and limited microbial diversity of the soil make the plant a prevailing factor. We have examined the bacterial communities in the root system of date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), the iconic keystone species of the oases, grown in heterogeneous soils across a broad geographic range (22,200 km2 surface area) of the Sahara Desert in Tunisia. We showed that, regardless of the edaphic conditions and geographic location, the plant invariably selects similar Gammaproteobacteria- and Alphaproteobacteria-dominated bacterial communities. The phylogeny, networking properties and predicted functionalities of the bacterial communities indicate that these two phyla are performing the ecological services of biopromotion and biofertilization. We conclude that in a desert agroecosystem, regardless of the soil microbial diversity baseline, the plant, rather than soil type, is responsible of the bacterial community assembly in its root systems, reversing the pattern observed in conventional agroecosystem.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 11 2019

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: The authors thank the private farmers of Tunisia for support in date palm sampling, and Sadaf Umer for her indispensable help in lab organization. This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors. The research reported in this publication was supported by funding from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, KAUST, (Baseline funding to DD). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


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