The microbial communities in solar salterns and a soda lake have been characterized using two techniques: BIOLOG, to estimate the metabolic potential, and amplicon length heterogeneity analysis, to estimate the molecular diversity of these communities. Both techniques demonstrated that the halophilic Bacteria and halophilic Archaea populations in the Eilat, Israel saltern are dynamic communities with extensive metabolic potentials and changing community structures. Halophilic Bacteria were detected in Mono Lake and the lower salinity ponds at the Shark Bay saltern in Western Australia, except when the crystallizer samples were stressed by exposure to Acid Green Dye #9899. At Shark Bay, halophilic Archaea were found only in the crystallizer samples. These data confirm both the metabolic diversity and the phylogenetic complexity of the microbial communities and assert the need to develop more versatile media for the cultivation of the diversity of bacteria in hypersaline environments.