Volume 27 of the series Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology pp 179-199


A Random Biogeochemical Walk into Three Soda Lakes of the Western USA: With an Introduction to a Few of Their Microbial Denizens

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Soda lakes are by definition both saline and alkaline, thereby immediately fulfilling the basic requirements of an environment exhibiting multiple forms of extreme conditions to which the biota are routinely exposed. Herein I will discuss three closed basin soda lakes located in Nevada (Big Soda Lake) and California (Mono and Searles Lakes) that have been investigated over the past three decades. While they represent extreme environments in these two primary dimensions, they are augmented in this category by considerations of their natural abundances of toxic elements (i.e., arsenic and boron), their paucity of important divalent cations (i.e., magnesium and calcium), the presence of hot spring microbial niches in their basins, and the perennial or occasional occurrences of meromixis, a hydrological stratification feature that results in exceptionally high levels of sulfide occurring in their hypolimnia. I will also discuss the microbes and microbial processes observed in these lakes and how they are adapted to some of the above-mentioned extreme conditions.