Biological Process

Despite rising salinity, life in the Solar Saltworks ponds does not stop. The known marine organisms (fish etc.) gradually disappear as we move from the initial ponds to the hostile environment of the others that follow. However, other organisms grow in their place and since there is no competition, they proliferate as they are able to survive in different salinities (that is, in different ponds) [Davis 1974].

Thus, in parallel with the physical process, an extremely important microbial community develops in the Evaporation Ponds and Crystallizers of Solar Saltworks, composed in planktonic and benthic communities and covering all three domains of life, Eukaryotes, Bacteria and Archaea! This chain of organisms constitutes the Biological Process of Solar Saltworks.

As we move from low to intermediate and high salinity ponds the composition of planktonic and benthic communities gradually changes from low levels of diverse groups of species (kinds) in low salinity to high concentrations of few important kinds in high salinity [Davis 2000]. Each pond community consists of producer organisms, i.e. algae, cyanobacteria, and certain bacteria, that manufacture organic substances via photosynthesis powering the entire biological system and consumer organisms i.e. Artemia, brine flies, bacteria, ciliates, crustaceans, mollusks, nematodes which use organic substances to power their physical activities, growth and reproduction. The presence of Artemia is of key importance for salt production since it controls the microbial synthesis in crystallizers, which in turn affects the salt crystallization process.

The ‘unusual’ microorganisms of Archaea domain that grow in extreme environments are dominant in the crystallizers. Characteristic example is the Halobacterium species that colors light pink the brines in crystallizers. The hypersaline systems such as salt lakes and solar saltworks are reservoirs of significant bacterial communities whose potential has barely been examined. [Litchfield 2009] There are several questions that have not been answered yet regarding the bacteria in hypersaline environments. Who is there, how stable and diverse is that community, what role(s) are the bacteria playing in the environment, how many organisms are present and do any of these bacteria have a useful function for man? [Litchfield 2009]

We can assert that we don’t know how many, ecologically and evolutionary important microbes exist in Salinas but we do know that if Solar Saltworks are destroyed we will lose a significant source of microbial biodiversity. [Litchfield 2009].

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