Survival and rapid resuscitation permit limited productivity in desert microbial communities

Stefanie Imminger, Dimitri V Meier, Arno Schintlmeister, Anton Legin, Jörg Schnecker, Andreas Richter, Osnat Gillor, Stephanie A Eichorst, Dagmar Woebken (Corresponding author)

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


Microbial activity in drylands tends to be confined to rare and short periods of rain. Rapid growth should be key to the maintenance of ecosystem processes in such narrow activity windows, if desiccation and rehydration cause widespread cell death due to osmotic stress. Here, simulating rain with 2H2O followed by single-cell NanoSIMS, we show that biocrust microbial communities in the Negev Desert are characterized by limited productivity, with median replication times of 6 to 19 days and restricted number of days allowing growth. Genome-resolved metatranscriptomics reveals that nearly all microbial populations resuscitate within minutes after simulated rain, independent of taxonomy, and invest their activity into repair and energy generation. Together, our data reveal a community that makes optimal use of short activity phases by fast and universal resuscitation enabling the maintenance of key ecosystem functions. We conclude that desert biocrust communities are highly adapted to surviving rapid changes in soil moisture and solute concentrations, resulting in high persistence that balances limited productivity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3056
Number of pages17
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online date17 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Apr 2024

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 106026 Ecosystem research
  • 105904 Environmental research
  • 106022 Microbiology


  • Ecosystem
  • Desert Climate
  • Soil Microbiology
  • Microbiota
  • Rain
  • Soil
  • microbial ecology

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