Rapid Colonization of Uranium Mining-Impacted Waters, the Biodiversity of Successful Lineages of Phytoplankton Extremophiles

Beatriz Baselga-Cervera, Camino García-Balboa, Héctor M. Díaz-Alejo, Eduardo Costas, Victoria López-Rodas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Anthropogenic extreme environments are emphasized as interesting sites for the study of evolutionary pathways, biodiversity, and extremophile bioprospection. Organisms that grow under these conditions are usually regarded as extremophiles; however, the extreme novelty of these environments may have favor adaptive radiations of facultative extremophiles. At the Iberian Peninsula, uranium mining operations have rendered highly polluted extreme environments in multiple locations. In this study, we examined the phytoplankton diversity, community structure, and possible determining factors in separate uranium mining-impacted waters. Some of these human-induced extreme environments may be able to sustain indigenous facultative extremophile phytoplankton species, as well as alleged obligate extremophiles. Therefore, we investigated the adaptation capacity of three laboratory strains, two Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and a Dictyosphaerium chlorelloides, to uranium-polluted waters. The biodiversity among the sampled waters was very low, and despite presenting unique taxonomic records, ecological patterns can be identified. The microalgae adaptation experiments indicated a gradient of ecological novelty and different phenomena of adaptation, from acclimation in some waters to non-adaptation in the harshest anthropogenic environment. Certainly, phytoplankton extremophiles might have been often overlooked, and the ability to flourish in extreme environments might be a functional feature in some neutrophilic species. Evolutionary biology and microbial biodiversity can benefit the study of recently evolved systems such as uranium-polluted waters. Moreover, anthropogenic extremophiles can be harnessed for industrial applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)576-587
Number of pages12
JournalMicrobial ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study is supported by the Spanish Secretaría de Estado, Investigación, Desarrollo e Innovación, grant CTM-2013-44366-R. Acknowledgments

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Adaptation
  • Anthropogenic extreme environments
  • Facultative extremophiles
  • Microbial biodiversity
  • Phytoplankton
  • Uranium mining impacted waterbodies


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