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We extracted bacterial isolates of similar colony morphology from spatially located soil samples within 1 ha of old-growth forest. The same soil samples were used to prepare growth medium. Each isolate was then cultured in each medium and its growth recorded. There was no overall tendency for isolates to grow more successfully in their home site (i.e., the medium derived from the soil sample from which they had been extracted). Most isolates grew very poorly, however, and when the analysis was restricted to the minority of vigorous isolates there was clear evidence of local adaptation: isolates tended to grow better at their home site than did isolates from elsewhere and grew better at their home site than they did at other sites. The variation of growth within the 1-ha plot made up a complex fitness landscape of peaks, ridges, and valleys. Most of the vigorous isolates were found at or near a local fitness (growth) peak, although seldom at a global peak. In consequence, there was a tendency for growth to diminish away from the home site. The home isolate was about 50% more fit than average at its home site; fitness diminished exponentially away from the home site at a rate of 0.0577 per meter. These figures are similar to those previously reported for plants. This selection gradient has matched the bacterial assemblage to the edaphic structure of the environment, although the fit is far from perfect.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





27 - 36