Archaeal populations in biological soil crusts from arid lands in North America

Tanya Soule, Ian J. Anderson, Shannon L. Johnson, Scott T. Bates, Ferran Garcia-Pichel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Archaea are common and abundant members of biological soil crust communities across large-scale biogeographic provinces of arid North America. Regardless of microbial community development, archaeal populations averaged 2 × 107 16S rRNA gene copies per gram of soil, representing around 5% of the prokaryotic (total calculated bacterial and archaeal) numbers assessed by quantitative-PCR. In contrast, archaeal diversity, determined by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis fingerprinting and clone libraries of 16S rRNA genes, was very restricted. Only six different phylotypes (all Crenarchaea) were detected, three of which were very dominant. Some phylotypes were widespread, while others were typical of Southern desert areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2069-2074
Number of pages6
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Moria Nagy and S.N.G. Reddy for sharing their initial experiences with crust Archaea. The staff of the Sevilleta and Jornada LTER sites, as well as the National Park Service (Canyonlands, N.P. and Organ Pipe N.M.), are gratefully acknowledged for providing sampling permits, guidance, and hospitality. Finally, we thank Dr. Scott Bingham for assistance with qPCR and for facilitating sequencing. This research was funded by an NSF grant from the Biodiversity Surveys and Inventories Program and by a USDA grant from the Soil Processes Program.


  • 16S rRNA
  • Archaea
  • Biological soil crust
  • Desert
  • Mixed community


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