, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 201–218 | Cite as

Microbial community composition and dolomite formation in the hypersaline microbial mats of the Khor Al-Adaid sabkhas, Qatar

  • Zach A. DiLoreto
  • Tomaso R. R. Bontognali
  • Zulfa A. Al Disi
  • Hamad Al Saad Al-Kuwari
  • Kenneth H. Williford
  • Christian J. Strohmenger
  • Fadhil Sadooni
  • Christine Palermo
  • John M. Rivers
  • Judith A. McKenzie
  • Michael Tuite
  • Maria DittrichEmail author
Original Paper


The Khor Al-Adaid sabkha in Qatar is among the rare extreme environments on Earth where it is possible to study the formation of dolomite—a carbonate mineral whose origin remains unclear and has been hypothetically linked to microbial activity. By combining geochemical measurements with microbiological analysis, we have investigated the microbial mats colonizing the intertidal areas of sabhka. The main aim of this study was to identify communities and conditions that are favorable for dolomite formation. We inspected and sampled two locations. The first site was colonized by microbial mats that graded vertically from photo-oxic to anoxic conditions and were dominated by cyanobacteria. The second site, with higher salinity, had mats with an uppermost photo-oxic layer dominated by filamentous anoxygenic photosynthetic bacteria (FAPB), which potentially act as a protective layer against salinity for cyanobacterial species within the deeper layers. Porewater in the uppermost layers of the both investigated microbial mats was supersaturated with respect to dolomite. Corresponding to the variation of the microbial community’s vertical structure, a difference in crystallinity and morphology of dolomitic phases was observed: dumbbell-shaped proto-dolomite in the mats dominated by cyanobacteria and rhombohedral ordered-dolomite in the mat dominated by FAPB.


Extreme environment Microbial mat Dolomite precipitation Extracellular polymeric substances Sabkha 



This publication was made possible by NPRP Grant 7-443-1-083 from the Qatar National Research Fund (a member of Qatar Foundation). MD was supported by the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC Discovery Grant) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation and Ontario Research Fund (Leaders Opportunity Fund, Grant Number 22404). The statements made herein are solely the responsibility of the authors. The authors would like to acknowledge Oleksandra Kaskun for performing alkalinity measurements, Dr. K. Tait at the Royal Ontario Museum for use of XRD and Sal Boccia at the Ontario Centre for the Characterizations of Advanced Materials (OCCAM) for the assistance with SEM imaging.

Author contribution

All authors contributed to the conception and design of the research. MD, TB, and ZD were responsible for fieldwork. CP participated in fieldwork in March 2016. ZD was responsible for writing the first draft of the manuscript and conducting the laboratory work, and ZD and MD collected the field data. All authors were involved in the interpretation of the data, contributing to sections of the manuscript, as well as revising and approving the final version for submission. All authors agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work and ensuring that questions related to accuracy or integrity of the work are appropriately addressed.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All of the involved authors have no conflict of interest that would influence the research conducted or conclusions drawn in this manuscript.

Data availability

All datasets generated or analyzed will be made available by request in a timely manner to any qualified researcher. 16S rRNA sequences were submitted for individual samples to the NCBI SRA database and will be available under accession number SRP159889 upon publication.

Supplementary material

792_2018_1074_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (264 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 264 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zach A. DiLoreto
    • 1
  • Tomaso R. R. Bontognali
    • 2
    • 3
    • 7
  • Zulfa A. Al Disi
    • 3
  • Hamad Al Saad Al-Kuwari
    • 3
  • Kenneth H. Williford
    • 4
  • Christian J. Strohmenger
    • 5
    • 6
  • Fadhil Sadooni
    • 3
  • Christine Palermo
    • 1
  • John M. Rivers
    • 5
  • Judith A. McKenzie
    • 2
  • Michael Tuite
    • 4
  • Maria Dittrich
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Physical & Environmental SciencesUniversity of Toronto ScarboroughTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Qatar UniversityDohaQatar
  4. 4.Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA
  5. 5.ExxonMobil Research QatarDohaQatar
  6. 6.ExxonMobil Production CompanyHoustonUSA
  7. 7.Space Exploration InstituteNeuchatelSwitzerland

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