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Prokaryote populations of extant microbialites along a depth gradient in Pavilion Lake, British Columbia, Canada

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Abstract

Pavilion Lake in British Columbia, Canada, is home to modern-day microbialites that are actively growing at multiple depths within the lake. While microbialite morphology changes with depth and previous isotopic investigations suggested a biological role in the formation of these carbonate structures, little is known about their microbial communities. Microbialite samples acquired through the Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP) were first investigated for phototrophic populations using Cyanobacteria-specific primers and 16S rRNA gene cloning. These data were expounded on by high-throughput tagged sequencing analyses of the general bacteria population. These molecular analyses show that the microbial communities of Pavilion Lake microbialites are diverse compared to non-lithifying microbial mats also found in the lake. Phototrophs and heterotrophs were detected, including species from the recently described Chloroacidobacteria genus, a photoheterotroph that has not been previously observed in microbialite systems. Phototrophs were shown as the most influential contributors to community differences above and below 25 meters, and corresponding shifts in heterotrophic populations were observed at this interface as well. The isotopic composition of carbonate also mirrored this shift in community states. Comparisons to previous studies indicated this population shift may be a consequence of changes in lake chemistry at this depth. Microbial community composition did not correlate with changing microbialite morphology with depth, suggesting something other than community changes may be a key to observed variations in microbialite structure.

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