Mangrove forests are important biotic sinks of atmospheric CO2 and play an integral role in nutrient-cycling and decontamination of coastal waters, thereby mitigating climatic and anthropogenic stressors. These services are primarily regulated by the activity of the soil microbiome. To understand how environmental changes may affect this vital part of the ecosystem, it is key to understand the patterns that drive microbial community assembly in mangrove forest soils. High-throughput amplicon sequencing (16S rRNA) was applied on samples from arid Avicennia marina forests across different spatial scales from local to regional. Alongside conventional analyses of community ecology, microbial co-occurrence networks were assessed to investigate differences in composition and structure of the bacterial community. The bacterial community composition varied more strongly along an intertidal gradient within each mangrove forest, than between forests in different geographic regions (Australia/Saudi Arabia). In contrast, co-occurrence networks differed primarily between geographic regions, illustrating that the structure of the bacterial community is not necessarily linked to its composition. The local diversity in mangrove forest soils may have important implications for the quantification of biogeochemical processes and is important to consider when planning restoration activities. IMPORTANCE Mangrove ecosystems are increasingly being recognized for their potential to sequester atmospheric carbon, thereby mitigating the effects of anthropogenically driven greenhouse gas emissions. The bacterial community in the soils plays an important role in the breakdown and recycling of carbon and other nutrients. To assess and predict changes in carbon storage, it is important to understand how the bacterial community is shaped by its environment. Here, we compared the bacterial communities of mangrove forests on different spatial scales, from local within-forest to biogeographic comparisons. The bacterial community composition differed more between distinct intertidal zones of the same forest than between forests in distant geographic regions. The calculated network structure of theoretically interacting bacteria, however, differed most between the geographic regions. Our findings highlight the importance of local environmental factors in shaping the microbial soil community in mangroves and highlight a disconnect between community composition and structure in microbial soil assemblages.
co-occurrence network analysis