Organic matter preservation and microbial community accumulations in deep-hypersaline anoxic Basins

TitleOrganic matter preservation and microbial community accumulations in deep-hypersaline anoxic Basins
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsPolymenakou, P, Stephanou E, Tselepides A, Bertilsson S
JournalGeomicrobiology Journal
Pages19 - 29
KeywordsAnoxic, Hypersaline, Microorganisms, Organic matter, Phospholipids, Sediments

The Eastern Mediterranean Sea hosts several deep hypersaline anoxic basins (DHABs) such as the Bannock, L'Atalante, Discovery, and Urania which, due to strong salinity gradients, have a limited exchange with the overlying seawater. In the present study, a series of environmental variables associated with the origin and quality of organic matter were thoroughly investigated in an attempt to understand the function of these unique ecosystems. The redox potential of sediments collected from the brines as well as from reference sites varied from - 136 to 543 mV and salinity varied from 38 to 380 psu. Principal component analysis of chemical characteristics, including salinity, redox potential, organic carbon and nitrogen content, and C/N ratio grouped the sediments into two major clusters according to their redox state. Aliphatic hydrocarbon analysis revealed that the organic matter in the DHABs was predominantly of terrestrial origin but there was also evidence for petroleum inputs and for organic matter of phototrophic origin. Phospholipid linked fatty acids (PLFA) which were employed to assess the composition of microbial communities were found in greater abundance in stations situated inside the anoxic basins providing also strong evidence for the presence of methanotrophs and sulfate reducers. These results may represent an enhanced preservation of organic matter and an accumulation of microorganisms in these extreme environments. Heterogeneity in microbial community fatty acid profiles was documented between the anoxic sediments and the oxic and suboxic stations. However there were no significant correlations between PLFA and organic matter parameters. Redox conditions appear to influence microbial community composition, highlighting the role of the redox state as a regulator of organic matter preservation and microbial community accumulations in these ancient hypersaline anoxic lakes.


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