Ecological and metabolic thresholds in the bacterial, protist and fungal microbiome of ephemeral saline lakes (Monegros Desert, Spain)

Menéndez-Serra, MateuTriadó-Margarit, Xavier Casamayor, Emilio O.  Microbial Ecology : doi:10.1007/s00248-021-01732-9 (2021)  DIGITAL CSIC

We studied the 16S and 18S rRNA genes of the bacterial, protist, and fungal microbiomes of 131 samples collected in 14 ephemeral small inland lakes located in the endorheic area of the Monegros Desert (NE Spain). The sampling covered different temporal flooding/desiccation cycles that created natural salinity gradients between 0.1% (w/v) and salt saturation. We aimed to test the hypothesis of a lack of competitive advantage for microorganisms using the “salt-in” strategy in highly fluctuating hypersaline environments where temperature and salinity transitions widely vary within short time periods, as in ephemeral inland lakes. Overall, 5653 bacterial zOTUs and 2658 eukaryal zOTUs were detected heterogeneously distributed with signif- icant variations on taxonomy and general energy-yielding metabolisms and trophic strategies along the gradient. We observed a more diverse bacterial assembly than initially expected at extreme salinities and a lack of dominance of a few “salt-in” organisms. Microbial thresholds were unveiled for these highly fluctuating hypersaline environments with high selective pressures. We conclude that the extremely high dynamism observed in the ephemeral lakes of Monegros may have given a competitive advantage for more versatile (“salt-out”) organisms compared to those better adapted to stable high salinities usually more common in solar salterns. Ephemeral inland saline lakes offered a well-suited natural framework for highly detailed evolutionary and ecological studies.