Microbial explorations of hot springs have led to remarkable discoveries and improved our understanding of life under extreme conditions. The Andean Mountains harbor diverse habitats, including an extensive chain of geothermal heated water sources. In this study, we describe and compare the planktonic microbial communities present in five high-mountain hot springs with distinct geochemical characteristics, at varying altitudes and geographical locations in the Colombian Andes. The diversity and structure of the microbial communities were assessed by pyrosequencing the V5 - V6 region of the 16S rRNA gene. The planktonic communities varied in terms of diversity indexes and were dominated by the bacterial phyla Proteobacteria, Aquificae, Chloroflexi, Cyanobacteria, Firmicutes, Nitrospirae, and Thermotogae, with site-specific bacterial taxa also observed in some cases. Statistical analyses showed that these microbial communities were distinct from one another and that they clustered in a manner consistent with physicochemical parameters of the environment sampled. Multivariate analysis suggested that pH and sulfate were among the main variables influencing population structure and diversity. The results show that despite their geographical proximity and some shared geochemical characteristics, there were few shared operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and that community structure was influenced mainly by environmental factors that have resulted in different microbial populations.
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