Co-occurrence patterns are used in ecology to explore interactions between organisms and environmental effects on coexistence within biological communities. Analysis of co-occurrence patterns among microbial communities has ranged from simple pairwise comparisons between all community members to direct hypothesis testing between focal species. However, co-occurrence patterns are rarely studied across multiple ecosystems or multiple scales of biological organization within the same study. Here we outline an approach to produce co-occurrence analyses that are focused at three different scales: co-occurrence patterns between ecosystems at the community scale, modules of co-occurring microorganisms within communities, and co-occurring pairs within modules that are nested within microbial communities. To demonstrate our co-occurrence analysis approach, we gathered publicly available 16S rRNA amplicon datasets to compare and contrast microbial co-occurrence at different taxonomic levels across different ecosystems. We found differences in community composition and co-occurrence that reflect environmental filtering at the community scale and consistent pairwise occurrences that may be used to infer ecological traits about poorly understood microbial taxa. However, we also found that conclusions derived from applying network statistics to microbial relationships can vary depending on the taxonomic level chosen and criteria used to build co-occurrence networks. We present our statistical analysis and code for public use in analysis of co-occurrence patterns across microbial communities. © 2014 Williams, Howe and Hofmockel.
Williams, R. J., Howe, A., & Hofmockel, K. S. (2014). Demonstrating microbial co-occurrence pattern analyses within and between ecosystems. Frontiers in Microbiology, 5(JULY). https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2014.00358