SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Microbial mats from two ponds with different salinities from the saltern of Guerrero Negro (Mexico) points toward millimeter-scale coherent variations in trace metal (Me) concentrations (Cd, Co, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb, Zn). Total, HCl-leachable and pyrite-associated Me showed a trend of increasing concentrations with increasing depth suggesting gradual addition of reactive Me probably as a result of metal sulfide precipitation at depth. The trends in Me profiles can be ascribed to the establishment and maintenance of microzones that promote geochemical processes, bacterial population distributions, and differential mass transport within the mats. Degrees of trace metal pyritization (1 ± 1% for Zn to 24 ± 7% for Cd) as well as metals associated with the pyrite fraction (<1.4–36 ± 18 nmol g−1 for Zn and Mn, respectively) were low, as expected from a reactive Fe-limited system like Guerrero Negro. Calculated enrichment factors showed that Ni (2.6 ± 2.1), Co (5.5 ± 4.0), Pb (9.4 ± 7.4), and Cd (57 ± 39) were, on average, enriched in the microbial mats of Guerrero Negro. Natural enrichments of Cd, Pb, and Co in sediments along the coast of Baja California and metabolical requirements of Co and Ni by the predominant cyanobacteria in the Guerrero Negro mats may explain these enrichments. Metal characteristics in microbial mats could be advantageously used as biosignatures to identify their presence in the geological record or in other planetary systems.