A core of rhizosphere bacterial taxa associates with two of the world’s most isolated plant congeners

Johannes J. Le Roux*, Pedro W. Crous, Casper N. Kamutando, David M. Richardson, Dominique Strasberg, Michael J. Wingfield, Mark G. Wright, Angel Valverde

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: Understanding the contributions of abiotic and biotic conditions to soil microbial diversity, structure, and function, remains a central focus in soil biology and biogeochemistry. Here we aim to determine how geography and host plant identity influence these different components of rhizosphere bacterial communities and endosymbionts associated with Acacia heterophylla on Réunion island (Mascarene archipelago, Indian Ocean) and A. koa in the Hawaiian Islands (Hawaiian archipelago, Pacific Ocean). These two tree species are remarkable: they are each other’s closest living relatives despite their habitats being more than 16 000 km apart.

Methods: Using 16S rRNA amplicon next-generation sequencing data we show that the structure of rhizosphere communities of these two acacias is largely driven by dispersal limitation between sites and local soil chemical conditions within sites.

Results: Despite high taxonomic turnover in soils collected from different sites, we found their predicted functions to be largely similar, suggestive of functional redundancy. We also identify a core of rhizosphere taxa associated with both Acacia species in both archipelagos, which included potential nitrogen-fixing mutualists. Isolation and characterisation of rhizobia from root nodules of both acacias further supported strong selection by these plants for the same Bradyrhizobium endosymbionts.

Conclusions: Overall, our data suggest that phylogenetically-closely related plants may show remarkably similar selectivity for bacterial mutualists over vast geographic distances.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalPlant and Soil
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Jesse Eiben for lab space on Hawaii island, Marelongue field research station (OSU Réunion) for research accommodation on Réunion island, and Réunion National Park for collecting permits. Megan Koordom at Stellenbosch University provided invaluable lab support. PWC and MJW acknowledge support from the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Plant Health Biotechnology. JJLeR and DMR acknowledge the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology. DMR received additional support from the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust (grant 18576/03). AV was supported by the South African National Reserach Foundation (NRF) and the project ‘CLU-2019–05 – IRNASA/CSIC Unit of Excellence’, funded by the Junta de Castilla y León and co-financed by the European Union (ERDF; ‘Europe drives our growth’).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Acacia
  • Bradyrhizobium
  • Core microbiome
  • Dispersal limitation
  • Host selectivity
  • Island biogeography
  • Rhizosphere soil


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