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Water Research
Volume 206, 2021, 117739

Vertical environmental gradient drives prokaryotic microbial community assembly and species coexistence in a stratified acid mine drainage lake

Zhixiang She1,2,#, Xin Pan1,2,#, Jin Wang1,2, Rui Shao1,2, Guangcheng Wang3, Shaoping Wang3, Zhengbo Yue1,2

School of Resources and Environmental Engineering, Hefei University of Technology, Hefei, Anhui 230009, China.


Acid mine drainage (AMD) lakes are typical hydrologic features caused by open pit mining and represent extreme ecosystems and environmental challenges. Little is known about microbial distribution and community assembly in AMD lakes, especially in deep layers. Here, we investigated prokaryotic microbial diversity and community assembly along a depth profile in a stratified AMD lake using 16S rRNA gene sequencing combined with multivariate ecological and statistical methods. The water column in the AMD lake exhibited tight geochemical gradients, with more acidic surface water. Coupled with vertical hydrochemical variations, prokaryotic microbial community structure changed significantly, and was accompanied by increased diversity with depth. In the surface water, heterogeneous selection was the most important assembly process, whereas stochastic processes gained importance with depth. Meanwhile, microbial co-occurrences, especially positive interactions, were more frequent in the stressful surface water with reduced network modularity and keystone taxa. The pH was identified as the key driver of microbial diversity and community assembly along the vertical profile based on random forest analysis. Taken together, environmental effects dominated by acid stress drove the community assembly and species coexistence that underpinned the spatial scaling patterns of AMD microbiota in the lake. These findings demonstrate the distinct heterogeneity of local prokaryotic microbial community in AMD lake, and provide new insights into the mechanism to maintain microbial diversity in extreme acidic environments.

Keywords: Acid mine drainage, Lake stratification, Environmental gradient, Microbial ecology, Species coexistence, Community assembly.

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