Working Paper Article Version 2 This version is not peer-reviewed

Spatial Variability of Microbial Communities and Salt Distributions Across a Latitudinal Aridity Gradient after Heavy Rains in the Atacama Desert

Version 1 : Received: 27 February 2020 / Approved: 28 February 2020 / Online: 28 February 2020 (12:34:35 CET)
Version 2 : Received: 13 October 2020 / Approved: 14 October 2020 / Online: 14 October 2020 (10:26:02 CEST)

How to cite: Shen, J.; Wyness, A.; Claire, M.; Zerkle, A. Spatial Variability of Microbial Communities and Salt Distributions Across a Latitudinal Aridity Gradient after Heavy Rains in the Atacama Desert. Preprints 2020, 2020020433 Shen, J.; Wyness, A.; Claire, M.; Zerkle, A. Spatial Variability of Microbial Communities and Salt Distributions Across a Latitudinal Aridity Gradient after Heavy Rains in the Atacama Desert. Preprints 2020, 2020020433

Abstract

Over the past 150 million years, the Chilean Atacama Desert has been transformed into one of the most inhospitable landscapes by geophysical changes, which makes it an ideal Mars analog that has been explored for decades. However, two heavy rainfalls that occurred in the Atacama in 2015 and 2017 provide a unique opportunity to study the response of resident extremophiles to rapid environmental change associated with excessive water and salt shock. Here we combine mineral/ salt composition measurements, amendment cell culture experiments, and next-generation sequencing analyses to study the variations in salts and microbial communities along a latitudinal aridity gradient of the Atacama Desert. In addition, we examine the reshuffling of Atacama microbiomes after the two rainfall events by comparing with previous researches. Analysis of microbial community composition revealed that soils within the southern arid desert were consistently dominated by Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, Acidobacteria, Planctomycetes, Chloroflexi, Bacteroidetes, Gemmatimonadetes, and Verrucomicrobia. Intriguingly, the hyperarid microbial consortia exhibited a similar pattern to the more southern desert. Salts at the shallow subsurface were dissolved and leached down to a deeper layer, challenging indigenous microorganisms with the increasing osmotic stress. Microbial viability was found to change with aridity and rainfall events. This study sheds light on the structure of xerophilic, halophilic, and radioresistant microbiomes from the hyperarid northern desert to the less arid southern transition region, as well as their response to changes in water availability. Our findings may infer similar events that happened on the wetter early Mars.

Subject Areas

Atacama microbiome; function prediction; extremophiles; osmotic stress; salt amendments

Comments (1)

Comment 1
Received: 14 October 2020
Commenter: Jianxun Shen
Commenter's Conflict of Interests: Author
Comment: In this version, we focus on the Atacama samples collected in 2017 only instead of a meta-analysis or comparative study with previous researches.
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