Summary

The multi-layered microbial mats in the sand flats of Great Sippewissett Salt Marsh were found to have five distinct layers of phototrophic organisms. The top 1–3 mm contained oxygenic phototrophs. The lower 3–4 mm contained anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria. The uppermost gold layer contained diatoms and cyanobacteria, and chlorophyll a was the major chlorophyll. The next layer down was green and was composed of primarily filamentous cyanobacteria containing chlorophyll a. This was followed by a bright pink layer of bacteriochlorophyll b-containing purple sulfur bacteria. The lowest layer was a thin dull green layer of green sulfur bacteria containing bacteriochlorophyll c. The distribution of the chlorophylls with depth revealed that two-thirds of the total chlorophyll in the mat was composed of bacteriochlorophylls present in the anoxygenic phototrophys. The cyanobacterial layers and both purple sulfur bacterial layers had photoautotrophic activity. Light was attenuated in the uppermost layers so that less than 5% of the total radiation at the surface penetrated to the layers of anoxygenic phototrophys.

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