Chapter 2 : Thermal Environments and Biodiversity

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This chapter summarizes some of the thermal environments on Earth and describes the taxonomic, genetic, metabolic, and ecological diversity of these environments. Biogeology/biogeochemistry is especially of interest in thermal environments, where mineralization is active and the role of prokaryotes in mineralization is being examined. Water is readily available in circumneutral, freshwater hot springs, but there are thermal environments having low water potentials; e.g., in intraterrestrial environments because of high surface area-to-water ratios or in solar heated soils and sediments because of evaporation and high salinity. The authors believe that many environments that are classified as mesobiotic from their bulk temperature measurements contain temporary thermal microniches, created by localized biodegradation of organic material. Measuring the genetic diversity of 16S rRNA and functional genes, which has been an avenue for discovery of many enzymes for biotechnological applications and the isolation of novel microorganisms, provides only limited information about their in situ abundance and activity. In general, analysis of multiple approaches applied in single environments combined with that of similar approaches in different environments has enhanced the robustness of our understanding of the various high-temperature environments and the biodiversity they harbor. Considering how the initial discovery of life in shallow and deep-sea vents expanded our notion of global biodiversity, future approaches and discoveries, perhaps also in extraterrestrial thermal environments, will likely reveal additional information relevant to many fields of basic and applied science.

Citation: Burgess E, Wagner I, Wiegel J. 2007. Thermal Environments and Biodiversity, p 13-29. In Gerday C, Glansdorff N (ed), Physiology and Biochemistry of Extremophiles. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815813.ch2

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Figure 1.

Thermophilic archaea: aerobic/microaerophilic/facultative aerobic archaea (◯) and anaerobic/facultative aerobic archaea (∎). A, and : optimal growth at pH 0.7, 60°C ( ). B, : optimal growth at 106°C, pH 5.5 ( ). C, : optimal growth at pH 9, 85°C ( ).

Citation: Burgess E, Wagner I, Wiegel J. 2007. Thermal Environments and Biodiversity, p 13-29. In Gerday C, Glansdorff N (ed), Physiology and Biochemistry of Extremophiles. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815813.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.
Figure 2.

Thermophilic bacteria: aerobic/microaerophilic/facultative aerobic bacteria (◯) and anaerobic/facultative aerobic bacteria (∎). D, : optimal growth at pH 3.5–4.0, 50–53°C ( ). E, : optimal growth at 85°C, pH 6.8 ( ). F, : optimal growth at pH25°C 10.1, 55–56°C ( ).

Citation: Burgess E, Wagner I, Wiegel J. 2007. Thermal Environments and Biodiversity, p 13-29. In Gerday C, Glansdorff N (ed), Physiology and Biochemistry of Extremophiles. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815813.ch2
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Table 1.

Comparison of richness of restriction enzyme phylotypes (types) from clone libraries of environmental 16S rRNA genes from a small selection of thermal environments

Citation: Burgess E, Wagner I, Wiegel J. 2007. Thermal Environments and Biodiversity, p 13-29. In Gerday C, Glansdorff N (ed), Physiology and Biochemistry of Extremophiles. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815813.ch2

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