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Can J Microbiol. 2001 Nov;47(11):994-1012.

Physical, chemical, and microbiological characteristics of microbial mats (kopara) in the South Pacific atolls of French Polynesia.

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Laboratoire d'écologie marine, Université du Pacifique, Papeete, Polynésie Française.


Microbial mats that develop in shallow brackish and hyposaline ponds in the rims of two French polynesian atolls (Rangiroa and Tetiaroa) were intensively investigated during the past three years. Comparative assessment of these mats (called kopara in polynesian language) showed remarkable similarities in their composition and structure. Due to the lack of iron, the color of the cyanobacterial pigments produced remained visible through the entire depth of the mats (20-40 cm depth), with alternate green, purple, and pink layers. Profiles of oxygen, sulfide, pH, and redox showed the anoxia of all mats from a depth of 2-3 mm. Analyses of bacterial pigments and bacterial lipids showed that all mats consisted of stratified layers of cyanobacteria (mainly Phormidium, Schizothrix, Scytonema) and purple and green phototrophic bacteria. The purple and green phototrophic bacteria cohabit with sulfate reducers (Desulfovibrio and Desulfobacter) and other heterotrophic bacteria. The microscopic bacterial determination emphasized the influence of salinity on the bacterial diversity, with higher diversity at low salinity, mainly for purple nonsulfur bacteria. Analyses of organic material and of exopolymers were also undertaken. Difference and similarities between mats from geomorphological, microbiological, and chemical points of view are discussed to provide multicriteria of classification of mats.

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