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Elevation is an important determinant of ecological community composition. It integrates several abiotic features and leads to strong, repeatable patterns of community structure, including changes in the abundance and richness of numerous taxa. However, the influence of elevational gradients on microbes is understudied relative to plants and animals. To compare the influence of elevation on multiple taxa simultaneously, we sampled phytotelm communities within a tropical pitcher plant (Nepenthes mindanaoensis) along a gradient from 400 to 1200 m a.s.l. We use a combination of metabarcoding and physical counts to assess diversity and richness of bacteria, micro-eukaryotes, and arthropods, and compare the effect of elevation on community structure to that of regulation by a number of plant factors. Patterns of community structure differed between bacteria and eukaryotes, despite their living together in the same aquatic microhabitats. Elevation influences community composition of eukaryotes to a significantly greater degree than it does bacteria. When examining pitcher characteristics, pitcher dimorphism has an effect on eukaryotes but not bacteria, while variation in pH levels strongly influences both taxa. Consistent with previous ecological studies, arthropod abundance in phytotelmata decreases with elevation, but some patterns of abundance differ between living inquilines and prey.


This work was originally published in Microbial Ecology, available at

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