Microbial mat ecosystems in Shark Bay, Australia, are under varying levels of stress as a result of hypersalinity, temperature, and desiccation. In addition, this region is sometimes subjected to the extreme effects of cyclones.

Despite the wide range of potential pathways and mechanisms for environmental adaptation evident in Shark Bay mat microbiomes, to date, there are no studies to evaluate how resilient and/or susceptible these microbial mat communities are in the face of natural disturbances such as storms and cyclones.

The impact of extreme stressors on microbial communities and critical pathways in threatened mat systems in Shark Bay are unknown and critical to ascertain before any irreversible ecosystem tipping points are reached. As an example, Cyclone Olwyn, a Category 3 cyclone hit the coastline of Western Australia, including Shark Bay, in 2015. This overall project goal is to determine how Shark Bay microbial mats respond at the community level to the environmental disturbances such as cyclonic events and heatwaves, and whether this change could potentially alter microbial functions and nutrient cycling.    


Associate Professor Brendan Burns
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