Understanding microbial interactions is essential to decipher the mechanisms of community assembly and their effects on ecosystem functioning, however, the conservation of species- and trait-based network interactions along environmental gradient remains largely unknown. Here, by using the network-based analyses with 3 paralleled data sets derived from 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing, functional microarray and predicted metagenome, we test our hypothesis that the network interactions of traits are more conserved than those of taxonomic measures, with significantly lower variation of network characteristics along the environmental gradient in acid mine drainage.
The results showed that although the overall network characteristics remained similar, the structural variation was significantly lower at trait levels. The higher conserved individual node topological properties, such as the centralities of betweenness and eigenvector, at trait level rather than at species level indicated that the responses of diverse traits remained relatively consistent even though different species played key roles under different environmental conditions. Additionally, the randomization tests revealed that it could not reject the null hypothesis that species-based correlations were random, while the tests suggested that correlation patterns of traits were non-random. Furthermore, relationships between trait-based network characteristics and environmental properties implied that trait-based networks might be more useful in reflecting the variation of ecosystem function. Taken together, our results suggest that deterministic trait-based community assembly results in greater conservation of network interaction, which may ensure ecosystem function across environmental regimes, emphasizing the importance of measuring the complexity and conservation of network interaction in evaluating the ecosystem stability and functioning.