We used cultivation-independent methods to investigate the prokaryotic biogeography of the water column in six salt lakes in Inner Mongolia, China, and a salt lake in Argentina. These lakes had different salt compositions and pH values and were at variable geographic distances, on both local and intercontinental scales, which allowed us to explore the microbial community composition within the context of both contemporary environmental conditions and geographic distance. Fourteen 16S rRNA gene clone libraries were constructed, and over 200 16S rRNA gene sequences were obtained. These sequences were used to construct biotic similarity matrices, which were used in combination with environmental similarity matrices and a distance matrix in the Mantel test to discover which factors significantly influenced biotic similarity. We showed that archaeal biogeography was influenced by contemporary environmental factors alone (Na+, CO32–, and HCO3– ion concentrations; pH; and temperature). Bacterial biogeography was influenced both by contemporary environmental factors (Na+, Mg2+, and HCO3– ion concentrations and pH) and by geographic distance
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