Diversity of Microbial Mats in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Filippidou, Sevasti; Price, Alex; Spencer-Jones, Charlotte; Scales, Anthony; Macey, Michael C.; Franchi, Fulvio; Lebogang, Lesedi; Cavalazzi, Barbara; Schwenzer, Susanne P. and Olsson-Francis, Karen (2024). Diversity of Microbial Mats in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana. Microorganisms, 12(1), article no. 147.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms12010147


The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are the remnants of a mega paleo-lake system in the central Kalahari, Botswana. Today, the Makgadikgadi Basin is an arid to semi-arid area receiving water of meteoric origin during the short, wet season. Large microbial mats, which support primary production, are formed due to desiccation during the dry season. This study aimed to characterise the microbial diversity of the microbial mats and the underlying sediment. The focus was the Ntwetwe Pan, located west of the Makgadikgadi Basin. Metagenomic analyses demonstrated that the mats consisted of a high relative abundance of Cyanobacteriota (synonym Cyanobacteria) (20.50–41.47%), Pseudomonadota (synonym Proteobacteria) (15.71 to 32.18%), and Actinomycetota (synonym Actinobacteria) (8.53–32.56%). In the underlying sediments, Pseudomonadota, Actinomycetota, and Euryarchaeota represented over 70% of the community. Localised fluctuations in water content and pH did not significantly affect the microbial diversity of the sediment or the mats.

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