The immense diversity of soil bacterial communities has stymied efforts to characterize individual taxa and document their global distributions. We analyzed soils from 237 locations across six continents and found that only 2% of bacterial phylotypes (~500 phylotypes) consistently accounted for almost half of the soil bacterial communities worldwide. Despite the overwhelming diversity of bacterial communities, relatively few bacterial taxa are abundant in soils globally. We clustered these dominant taxa into ecological groups to build the first global atlas of soil bacterial taxa. Our study narrows down the immense number of bacterial taxa to a “most wanted” list that will be fruitful targets for genomic and cultivation-based efforts aimed at improving our understanding of soil microbes and their contributions to ecosystem functioning.
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