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Cabo Rojo Salterns Microbial Observatory

University of Puerto Rico at Humacao

 

 

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Site Description

 

Cabo Rojo salterns are located in the South West Region of Puerto Rico (lat. 17°56’25 N, long. 67°11’W). The salterns are composed  of an estuary surrounded by natural mats that feds a series of artificial salt ponds with seawater. The site is subject to extreme seasonal changes during  the dry and rainy seasons. The prevalence of high solar radiation and the scarcity of rain during most of the year promote the formation of hypersaline environments specially during the dry period. Such period takes place between December to March where the precipitation of the site decreases to 2.00 inches. On the contrary, during the short rainy season (August to October) precipitation raises up to 7.90 inches.

Not only microorganisms have adapted to this conditions but also macroscopic life as well.

Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico

 

The town of Cabo Rojo is located in the South West side of the island of Puerto Rico. 

It is known by its beautiful beaches, sunsets and because of their lighthouse.  It also hosts two natural salterns, Salinas I and Salinas II.  Such location was selected to conduct research for the wide ocurrencies of solar salterns and thalasic evaporites.  Quartz, feldspar and calcium carbonates are the most abundant minerals found in this area.  The coastal line borders sea level basins with inflow from the sea. 

 

Some nice views...

Artificial Salt Ponds

 

Man made systems used for salt extraction consist of preparation, concentration and precipitation ponds.  Salinity levels increased as sea water flows from the inlet to the precipitation ponds. The Cabo Rojo  salt ponds (Figures 1 to 5) are mostly precipitation ponds as they posses more than 30% salt. The bottom of the ponds (figure 6) consist of a hard crust.

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Dry and Rainy Seasons

 

Locations within the Cabo Rojo salterns during the dry (March, 2002) and the rainy seasons (November, 2001). Please note the thick salt crust that covers the Cyanobacterial mats around the salterns.

Dry Wet
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Macroscopic Life

 

Soil vegetation in the salterns is scarce and low in diversity.  The predominant plants are basically halophitic coastal mangroves, cotton and grasses (figures 1, 2 and 3, respectively). Crustaceans and insects mostly integrate the fauna (figures 4 and 5).  Several migratory birds are found in this area during the short rainy season (figure 6).  Water sediments are populated  by high densities of prokaryotes, protists, insects and small crustaceans such as Artemia salina.  All this organisms show tolerance to a relatively wide range of salinities.  However when some of them accidentally fell inside the salt ponds they provide a high load of usually limiting nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

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4

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6

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Web page designed by Beatriz Hernández Machado

Updated by Ángel Casanova   

Last revision February 2009