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The secrets of the Albufera and the Mar Menor
19 November 2012
Scientists from the Universitat de València have taken part in the first complete description of microbial metagenome of the Albufera of Valencia and Mar Menor of Murcia. The team has worked with centres such as the prestigious Craig Venter Institute (USA) and the Universidad Miguel Hernández of Elche, to sequence the genomes of different groups of microorganisms in these two representative Mediterranean coastal lakes: a freshwater one and another of saline water. This is the first time that this modern technique, which involves massive sequencing, has been applied to epicontinental aquatic ecosystems.
After obtaining over a million and a half sequences, the researchers state that the Albufera has much more microdiversity than was believed even though it is an ecosystem stressed by pollution". Thus, "not only have we advanced knowledge of the lake and the ecological characteristics of the microorganisms that live there, but now we know it has a greater potential to overcome pollution episodes, since microorganisms can act as natural tools to improve its environmental quality," says the researcher of the Universitat de València Antonio Camacho.
The sequencing has revealed general patterns of the Mediterranean lagoons, while showing that the Albufera and the Mar Menor have a completely different microbial composition. The researchers have even discovered an unknown and dominant bacterium in the Mar Menor: the Alpha-Proteobacteria, an oxidant of sulphur.
Regarding the Albufera, despite being a very eutrophicated ecosystem with high levels of pollution, the analysis has shown great diversity of microbial organisms. "What looks like a single species through the microscope, massive sequencing shows the existence of dozens of species," says Camacho.
Knowledge of the composition of the microbiota of these ecosystems can be useful to facilitate ecological recovery, "but also has an undeniable biotechnological potential," adds the scientist.