Composite soil samples from 7 sites on San Nicolas Island were evaluated quantitatively and qualitatively for the presence of cyanobacteria and eukaryotic microalgae. Combined data demonstrated a rich algal flora with 19 cyanobacterial and 19 eukaryotic microalgal genera being identified, for a total of 56 species. Nine new species were identified and described among the cyanobacteria and the eukaryotic microalgae that were isolated: Leibleinia edaphica, Aphanothece maritima, Chroococcidiopsis edaphica, Cyanosarcina atroveneta, Hassallia californica, Hassallia pseudoramosissima, Microchaete terrestre, Palmellopsis californiens, and Pseudotetracystis compactis. Distinct distributional patterns of algal taxa existed among sites on the island and among soil algal floras of western North America. Some algal taxa appeared to be widely distributed across many desert regions, including Microcoleus vaginatus, Nostoc punctiforme, Nostoc paludosum, and Tolypothrix distorta, Chlorella vulgaris, Diplosphaera cf. chodatii, Myrmecia astigmatica, Myrmecia biatorellae, Hantzschia amphioxys, and Luticola mutica. Some taxa share a distinctly southern distribution with soil algae from southern Arizona, southern California, and Baja California (e.g., Scenedesmus deserticola and Eustigmatos magnus). The data presented herein support the view that the cyanobacterial and microalgal floras of soil crusts possess significant biodiversity, much of it previously undescribed.
Additional publication details
The biological soil crusts of the San Nicolas Island: Enigmatic algae from a geographically isolated ecosystem