The relationship between physical and chemical conditions and low microbial diversity in the Blue Lagoon geothermal lake in Iceland
The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is a shallow geothermal lake with average temperatures of 37°C, pH 7.5 and about 2.5% salinity. It was formed in 1976 from the effluents of the Svartsengi geothermal power plant and is saturated with silica which constantly precipitates in the lake. It has been colonized by a few types of specialized microorganisms which seem to proliferate in this unusual ecosystem. The average bacterial colony count in the lake was 1.3 × 105 ml−1 on plate count agar made with 50% Blue Lagoon fluid but 2.6 × 106 ml−1 when determined with the MPN method. A total of 99 isolates were purified and characterized by 54 phenotypic tests and then grouped using Numerical Taxonomy. At similarity values of 80%, one major cluster was formed containing 85% of the isolates. Four representative strains from this cluster were further characterized and all shown to be Gram-negative, obligately aerobic, non-motile rods. They were oxidase positive, catalase negative and grew optimally at 45°C and in 3.5% NaCl with doubling time of about 80 min.