Main Article Content

Minireview<br><br>Coastal microbial mats: the physiology of a small-scale ecosystem

LJ Stal


Coastal inter-tidal sandy sediments, salt marshes and mangrove forests often
support the development of microbial mats. Microbial mats are complex associations
of one or several functional groups of microorganisms and their formation usually
starts with the growth of a cyanobacterial population on a solid substrate.
They are considered as analogues of fossil Precambrian stromatolites. Primary
production by the cyanobacteria fuels the metabolism of sulfate reducing bacteria
and the sulfide that they produce is oxidised by anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria
and by colorless sulfur bacteria. Growth and metabolism of these microorganisms
result in markedly fluctuating vertical gradients of oxygen and sulfide that
shift during a day-night cycle. This review discusses the metabolic contributions
of the different functional groups of microorganisms and how their joint effort
results in the formation of the mat.

South African Journal of Botany 2001, 67 (3): 399–410

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0254-6299