AME 56:193-204 (2009)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/ame01297

REVIEW
Saltern evaporation ponds as model systems for the study of primary production processes under hypersaline conditions

Aharon Oren

Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, The Institute of Life Sciences, and the Moshe Shilo Minerva Center for Marine Biogeochemistry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel

ABSTRACT: Multi-pond solar salterns, which are used worldwide for salt production along tropical and subtropical coastal areas, present an environment with increasing salt concentrations, from seawater to NaCl saturation. Characteristic salt-adapted microbial communities are found along the salinity gradient. In ponds of intermediate salinity (100 to 250 g l–1), most of the primary production occurs in benthic microbial mats dominated by different types of unicellular and filamentous Cyanobacteria (Aphanothece, Microcoleus, Phormidium and others), sometimes in association with diatoms. In crystallizer ponds, the unicellular green alga Dunaliella is the sole primary producer that lives in association with dense communities of heterotrophic halophilic Archaea that color the brines red. This basic pattern is common to all saltern systems, in spite of local variations in climate and nutrient availability. Photosynthetic activities of benthic cyanobacterial mats in the evaporation ponds and of endoevaporitic microbial communities within the gypsum crust that precipitates at intermediate salinities have been extensively studied in salterns at different locations, using oxygen microelectrodes and other techniques adapted to the study of benthic communities. These environments are generally highly productive, although most of the oxygen produced during daytime by the Cyanobacteria is recycled within the mats rather than exchanged with the overlying water and the atmosphere. Surprisingly few attempts have been made thus far to estimate the photosynthetic activity of Dunaliella, which is often present in numbers between 103 and 105 cells ml–1 in the heavily salt-stressed environment of crystallizer ponds, so that the dynamics of the system is largely unknown.


KEY WORDS: Salterns · Cyanobacterial mats · Dunaliella · Primary production · Hypersaline


Full text in pdf format  
Cite this article as: Oren A (2009) Saltern evaporation ponds as model systems for the study of primary production processes under hypersaline conditions. Aquat Microb Ecol 56:193-204. https://doi.org/10.3354/ame01297

Export citation
Mail this link - Contents Mailing Lists - RSS
- -