Diversity, adaptation and activity of the bacterial flora in saline environments
- Cite this article as:
- Zahran, H. Biol Fertil Soils (1997) 25: 211. doi:10.1007/s003740050306
Saline environments have a natural bacterial flora, which may play a significant role in the economy of these habitats. The natural saline environments (usually containing salinity equivalent to 4–30% NaCl) are aquatic (e.g. salt marshes) or terrestrial (e.g. saline lands). Saline environments include an increasing area of salt-affected cultivated soils throughout the world. These environments contain various ions which may interfere with uptake of water and which may be toxic to a large number of organisms. Saline environments harbour taxonomically diverse bacterial groups, which exhibit modified physiological and structural characteristics under the prevailing saline conditions. The majority of these bacteria can osmoregulate by synthesizing specific compatible organic osmolytes such as glutamine, proline and glycine betaine and a few of them accumulate inorganic solutes such as Na+, K+ and Mg2+. The morphology of the bacteria is usually modified, cells are usually elongated, swollen and showing shrinkage, in addition to changes in the cell and cytoplasmic volume. The chemical composition of membranes may also occasionally be modified, and the synthesis pattern of proteins, lipids, fatty acids and polysaccharides may change with a moderate increase in salinity. However, ultrastructural alterations in cells of halophilic bacteria have not been reported, and profound changes in cellular properties of these bacteria only occur at concentrations above 2MNaCl. Evidence has accumulated that the bacteria are essential elements in the saline environment because of their activity such as degradation of plant remains, nitrogen fixation and production of active metabolites.