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Microbial Communities in Sediments From Four Mildly Acidic Ephemeral Salt Lakes in the Yilgarn Craton (Australia) – Terrestrial Analogs to Ancient Mars

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      The Yilgarn Craton in Australia has a large number of naturally occurring shallow ephemeral lakes underlain by a dendritic system of paleodrainage channels. Processes like evaporation, flooding, erosion, as well as inflow of saline, often acidic and ion-rich groundwater contribute to the (dynamic) nature of the lakes and the composition of the sediments. The region has previously been described as an analog environment for early Mars due to its geological and geophysical similarities. Here, we investigated sediment samples of four lake environments aimed at getting a fundamental understanding of the native microbial communities and the mineralogical and (bio)chemical composition of the sediments they are associated with. The dominant mineral phases in the sediments were quartz, feldspars and amphiboles, while halite and gypsum were the only evaporites detected. Element analysis revealed a rich and complex image, in which silicon, iron, and aluminum were the dominant ions, but relative high concentrations of trace elements such as strontium, chromium, zirconium, and barium were also found. The concentrations of organic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus were generally low. 16S amplicon sequencing on the Illumina platform showed the presence of diverse microbial communities in all four lake environments. We found that most of the communities were dominated by extremely halophilic Archaea of the Halobacteriaceae family. The dynamic nature of these lakes appears to influence the biological, biochemical, and geological components of the ecosystem to a large effect. Inter- and intra-lake variations in the distributions of microbial communities were significant, and could only to a minor degree be explained by underlying environmental conditions. The communities are likely significantly influenced by small scale local effects caused by variations in geological settings and dynamic interactions caused by aeolian transport and flooding and evaporation events.

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            Author and article information

            1Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam , Amsterdam, Netherlands
            2Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique/Université de Lorraine , Vandœuvre-lès-Nancy, France
            3Department of Applied Geology, Curtin University , Perth, WA, Australia
            4Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Imperial College London , London, United Kingdom
            5Leiden Observatory, Leiden University , Leiden, Netherlands
            6Space Policy Institute, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University , Washington, DC, United States
            7Centro de Química-Física Molecular-Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (CQFM-IN), Institute for Bioengineering and Biosciences (iBB), Departamento de Engenharia Química, Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), Universidade de Lisboa , Lisbon, Portugal
            Author notes

            Edited by: Marjorie A. Chan, The University of Utah, United States

            Reviewed by: Melanie R. Mormile, Missouri University of Science and Technology, United States; Ronald Oremland, United States Geological Survey, United States; Jinjun Kan, Stroud Water Research Center, United States

            This article was submitted to Extreme Microbiology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Microbiology

            Front Microbiol
            Front Microbiol
            Front. Microbiol.
            Frontiers in Microbiology
            Frontiers Media S.A.
            06 May 2019
            : 10
            Copyright © 2019 Aerts, van Spanning, Flahaut, Molenaar, Bland, Genge, Ehrenfreund and Martins.

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

            Figures: 9, Tables: 4, Equations: 0, References: 78, Pages: 19, Words: 0
            Funded by: Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek 10.13039/501100003246
            Funded by: Science and Technology Facilities Council 10.13039/501100000271
            Original Research


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