Bacterial Diversity of the Atacama Desert, Chile: The Challenges of Characterizing the Community Dynamics of Extreme Oligotrophic Ecosystems

Persistent Link:
http://hdl.handle.net/10150/242364
Title:
Bacterial Diversity of the Atacama Desert, Chile: The Challenges of Characterizing the Community Dynamics of Extreme Oligotrophic Ecosystems
Author:
Neilson, Julia Worsley
Issue Date:
2012
Publisher:
The University of Arizona.
Rights:
Copyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Abstract:
This dissertation examines the bacterial diversity of hyperarid and arid regions of the Atacama Desert, Chile, as a first step towards understanding the global biogeochemical significance of arid-land microbial communities. The specific objectives were to characterize bacterial diversity and infer the possible metabolic potential of these bacterial communities, and to evaluate the influence of moisture exposure on community structure. In addition, the strengths and limitations of available tools for probing microbial diversity and activity in terrestrial ecosystems were characterized for their application to extreme oligotrophic communities. Preliminary PCR-DGGE analysis of a west-east elevational transect from the Pacific Ocean near Antofagasta to the western slopes of the central Andes indicated that bacterial communities along this transect belonged to two distinct community types: 1) hyperarid (700 - 2000 m) and 2) arid (2500 - 4500 m) communities that included both vegetated and unvegetated regions. Subsequent diversity analysis of these two regions revealed novel but distinct communities in both regions. A greater diversity was observed in the unvegetated arid regions than in the unvegetated hyperarid areas. The unvegetated arid sites were characterized by a bacterial community harboring a combination of radiotolerant and halotolerant heterotrophs as wells as diverse phylotypes closely related to chemolithoautotrophs. These rare phylotypes may be uniquely adapted to arid ecosystems. Molecular tools evaluated for community diversity analysis included PCR-DGGE, Sanger-clone and 454-pyrosequencing analysis of 16S rRNA gene libraries, and the use of reverse transcriptase quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) for quantifying the impact of environmental variables on the metabolic activity of a specific organism. These techniques were evaluated using the ecosystems of the Atacama Desert as well as model ecosystems designed to address specific questions. Molecular tools are invaluable to the study of microbial ecology because they facilitate the study of fastidious organisms that are difficult or impossible to culture, but the analysis presented in this dissertation demonstrates that each of these methods has limitations and biases which must be acknowledged to avoid inaccurate conclusions from skewed results. The most complete picture of the taxonomic and functional profile of a microbial community is obtained by employing a combination of molecular techniques.
Type:
text; Electronic Dissertation
Keywords:
PCR-DGGE; pyrosequencing; rhamnolipid; Soil, Water & Environmental Science; Atacama Desert; Bacterial diversity
Degree Name:
Ph.D.
Degree Level:
doctoral
Degree Program:
Graduate College; Soil, Water & Environmental Science
Degree Grantor:
University of Arizona
Advisor:
Maier, Raina M.

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.language.isoenen_US
dc.titleBacterial Diversity of the Atacama Desert, Chile: The Challenges of Characterizing the Community Dynamics of Extreme Oligotrophic Ecosystemsen_US
dc.creatorNeilson, Julia Worsleyen_US
dc.contributor.authorNeilson, Julia Worsleyen_US
dc.date.issued2012-
dc.publisherThe University of Arizona.en_US
dc.rightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.en_US
dc.description.abstractThis dissertation examines the bacterial diversity of hyperarid and arid regions of the Atacama Desert, Chile, as a first step towards understanding the global biogeochemical significance of arid-land microbial communities. The specific objectives were to characterize bacterial diversity and infer the possible metabolic potential of these bacterial communities, and to evaluate the influence of moisture exposure on community structure. In addition, the strengths and limitations of available tools for probing microbial diversity and activity in terrestrial ecosystems were characterized for their application to extreme oligotrophic communities. Preliminary PCR-DGGE analysis of a west-east elevational transect from the Pacific Ocean near Antofagasta to the western slopes of the central Andes indicated that bacterial communities along this transect belonged to two distinct community types: 1) hyperarid (700 - 2000 m) and 2) arid (2500 - 4500 m) communities that included both vegetated and unvegetated regions. Subsequent diversity analysis of these two regions revealed novel but distinct communities in both regions. A greater diversity was observed in the unvegetated arid regions than in the unvegetated hyperarid areas. The unvegetated arid sites were characterized by a bacterial community harboring a combination of radiotolerant and halotolerant heterotrophs as wells as diverse phylotypes closely related to chemolithoautotrophs. These rare phylotypes may be uniquely adapted to arid ecosystems. Molecular tools evaluated for community diversity analysis included PCR-DGGE, Sanger-clone and 454-pyrosequencing analysis of 16S rRNA gene libraries, and the use of reverse transcriptase quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) for quantifying the impact of environmental variables on the metabolic activity of a specific organism. These techniques were evaluated using the ecosystems of the Atacama Desert as well as model ecosystems designed to address specific questions. Molecular tools are invaluable to the study of microbial ecology because they facilitate the study of fastidious organisms that are difficult or impossible to culture, but the analysis presented in this dissertation demonstrates that each of these methods has limitations and biases which must be acknowledged to avoid inaccurate conclusions from skewed results. The most complete picture of the taxonomic and functional profile of a microbial community is obtained by employing a combination of molecular techniques.en_US
dc.typetexten_US
dc.typeElectronic Dissertationen_US
dc.subjectPCR-DGGEen_US
dc.subjectpyrosequencingen_US
dc.subjectrhamnolipiden_US
dc.subjectSoil, Water & Environmental Scienceen_US
dc.subjectAtacama Deserten_US
dc.subjectBacterial diversityen_US
thesis.degree.namePh.D.en_US
thesis.degree.leveldoctoralen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineGraduate Collegeen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineSoil, Water & Environmental Scienceen_US
thesis.degree.grantorUniversity of Arizonaen_US
dc.contributor.advisorMaier, Raina M.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberPepper, Ian L.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberRasmussen, Craigen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberArnold, Anne Elizabethen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberMaier, Raina M.en_US
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