Front Microbiol 4 , 323 ( 2013)
Phototrophic microbial mats are compact ecosystems composed of highly interactive organisms in which energy and element cycling take place over millimeter-to-centimeter-scale distances. Although microbial mats are common in hypersaline environments, they have not been extensively characterized in systems dominated by divalent ions. Hot Lake is a meromictic, epsomitic lake that occupies a small, endorheic basin in north-central Washington. The lake harbors a benthic, phototrophic mat that assembles each spring, disassembles each fall, and is subject to greater than tenfold variation in salinity (primarily Mg(2+) and SO(2-) 4) and irradiation over the annual cycle. We examined spatiotemporal variation in the mat community at five time points throughout the annual cycle with respect to prevailing physicochemical parameters by amplicon sequencing of the V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene coupled to near-full-length 16S RNA clone sequences. The composition of these microbial communities was relatively stable over the seasonal cycle and included dominant populations of Cyanobacteria, primarily a group IV cyanobacterium (Leptolyngbya), and Alphaproteobacteria (specifically, members of Rhodobacteraceae and Geminicoccus). Members of Gammaproteobacteria (e.g., Thioalkalivibrio and Halochromatium) and Deltaproteobacteria (e.g., Desulfofustis) that are likely to be involved in sulfur cycling peaked in summer and declined significantly by mid-fall, mirroring larger trends in mat community richness and evenness. Phylogenetic turnover analysis of abundant phylotypes employing environmental metadata suggests that seasonal shifts in light variability exert a dominant influence on the composition of Hot Lake microbial mat communities. The seasonal development and organization of these structured microbial mats provide opportunities for analysis of the temporal and physical dynamics that feed back to community function.