In order to assess the role of cyanobacteria in the formation and dynamics of microenvironments in microbial mats, we studied an experimental biofilm of a benthic, halotolerant strain, belonging to the Halothece cluster of cyanobacteria. The 12-week-old biofilm developed in a sand core incubated in a benthic gradient chamber under opposing oxygen and sulfide vertical concentration gradients. At the biofilm surface, and as a response to high light irradiances, specific accumulation of myxoxanthophyll was detected in the cells, consistent with the typical vertical distribution of sun versus shade species in nature. The oxygen turn-over in terms of gross photosynthesis and net productivity rates was comparable to oxygen dynamics in natural microbial mats. Sulfide blocked O2 production at low irradiances in deep biofilm layers but the dynamics of H2S and pH demonstrated that sulfide removal by anoxygenic photosynthesis was taking place. At higher irradiances, as soon as H2S was depleted, the cells switched to oxygenic photosynthesis as has been postulated for natural communities. The similarities between this experimental biofilm and natural benthic microbial mats demonstrate the central role of cyanobacteria in shaping microenvironmental gradients and processes in other complex microbial communities. Copyright (C) 2000 Federation of European Microbiological Societies.
- PI curve
- Scalar irradiance
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology