Rapid formation of mature microbialites in Lake Alchichica, Mexico

Environ Microbiol Rep. 2021 Oct;13(5):600-605. doi: 10.1111/1758-2229.12957. Epub 2021 Aug 15.


Microbialites are emblematic sedimentary rocks formed by phylogenetically and metabolically complex microbial communities thriving under specific physicochemical conditions. Most microbialites are photosynthesis-based ecosystems frequently formed by carbonates, thereby capturing inorganic carbon in the form of both, organic matter and mineral precipitates. However, little is known about the amount of sequestered carbon and the kinetics of the process, that is, microbialite growth rate. To assess microbialite growth rate and the influence of substrates on carbonate formation in Alchichica, an alkaline crater lake harbouring well-developed carbonate microbialites, we incubated in situ sterilized Nylon mesh, hydromagnesite and aragonite crystals, and bleached-coral aragonite for 2 years. We observed the rapid formation of nascent hydromagnesite and aragonite-containing microbialites on Nylon mesh, with an average growth rate of ~0.6 (and up to 1) mm year-1 . By contrast, only thin (< 0.2 mm) biofilms developed on exposed hydromagnesite and aragonite crystals and bleached-coral aragonite, suggesting decoupled microbial colonization and biomineralization and/or potential interference of those mineral surfaces with new carbonate nucleation. Microbial communities associated with 2-year-old microbialites and biofilms were fully comparable to mature communities populating Lake Alchichica indigenous microbialites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carbonates / analysis
  • Carbonates / chemistry
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry
  • Lakes* / chemistry
  • Mexico
  • Microbiota*


  • Carbonates