Microbial mats and the search for minimal ecosystems Authors R. Guerrero Department of Microbiology, and Special Research Center for Complex Systems (Microbiology Group), University of Barcelona, Spain M. Piqueras Department of Microbiology, and Special Research Center for Complex Systems (Microbiology Group), University of Barcelona, Spain M. Berlanga Department of Microbiology, and Special Research Center for Complex Systems (Microbiology Group), University of Barcelona, Spain Keywords: minimal ecosystems, microbial mats, biodiversity, biofilms, ecopoiesis Abstract This article reviews some ecological concepts common to all kinds of ecosystems, describes the characteristics of microbial mats, and focuses on the description of the Ebro Delta microbial mats, to assess whether they fit the concept of a minimal ecosystem. First, microorganisms as components of ecosystems are considered, and some features of microbial life, including ubiquity, size and metabolism, genetic versatility, and strategies to overcome unfavorable conditions, are discussed. Models for ecosystems, regardless of their size, have the same basic components; tropical forests, multilayered planktonic microbial communities, and benthic microbial mats are analogous ecosystems at different scales. The structure –in terms of populations and communities– and ecophysiology of microbial mats are also discussed. The linear distribution of microbial populations along steep gradients of light and hydrogen sulfide allows for the simultaneous presence of different microbial populations. Defining the minimal ecosystem requirements necessary for the survival and proliferation of organisms is crucial in the search for extraterrestrial life and for establishing ecosystems beyond the Earth. Downloads PDF Published 2010-03-10 Issue Vol. 5 No. 4 (2002) Section Review Articles License Submission of a manuscript to International Microbiology implies: that the work described has not been published before, including publication in the World Wide Web (except in the form of an Abstract or as part of a published lecture, review, or thesis); that it is not under consideration for publication elsewhere; that all the coauthors have agreed to its publication. The corresponding author signs for and accepts responsability for releasing this material and will act on behalf of any and all coauthors regarding the editorial review and publication process.If an article is accepted for publication in International Microbiology, the authors (or other copyright holder) must transfer to the journal the right–not exclusive–to reproduce and distribute the article including reprints, translations, photographic reproductions, microform, electronic form (offline, online) or any other reproductions of similar nature. Nevertheless, all article in International Microbiology will be available on the Internet to any reader at no cost. The journal allows users to freely download, copy, print, distribute, search, and link to the full text of any article, provided the authorship and source of the published article is cited. The copyright owner's consent does not include copying for new works, or resale. In these cases, the specific written permission of International Microbiology must first be obtained.Authors are requested to create a link to the published article on the journal's website. The link must be accompanied by the following text: "The original publication is available on LINK at <http://www.im.microbios.org>. Please use the appropiate URL for the article in LINK. Articles disseminated via LINK are indexed, abstracted, and referenced by many abstracting and information services, bibliographic networks, subscription agencies, library networks, and consortia.