Disentangling microstructure and environmental conditions in high-altitude Andean microbialite systems (Catamarca, Argentine Puna)

Environ Microbiol Rep. 2023 Apr;15(2):92-108. doi: 10.1111/1758-2229.13128. Epub 2022 Oct 3.


The study of microbialites development is a key tool to understand environmental pathways during deposition. We provide a detailed analysis of modern Central Andean microbialites from high-altitude lakes. The stratigraphic record of Turquesa Lake shows a significant short-term recolonization by microbialite-producing microorganisms during environmental stress. Far from a crisis paradigm, the coasts and paleocoasts of Turquesa lake exhibit three microbialitic buildups formed along different stages, providing a good study case of biological resilience of these systems in harsh environments. The MI and MII microbialite buildups occupied two paleocoasts. Both are composed of oncoids with micritic to microsparitic textures. Morphological, textural and mineralogical similarities between the two buildups suggest that they were formed at different times, but under very similar environmental conditions. The microorganisms that produced the microbialitic buildup MIII are currently colonizing the coast of this lake. The previous oncoid morphology change to a parallel micritic-spartic lamination. This remarkable changes in the microstructure can be explained by an important environmental change caused by the isolation of the Peinado Lake, and a subsequently microorganism adaptation. This microbialite structures can be proposed as an interesting modern analogue for environmental changes along the geological record.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Altitude*
  • Geologic Sediments* / chemistry
  • Lakes / chemistry