Khalifa Centre researchers in UAE University answer question of whether sabkha still exists

AL AIN, A group of researchers from the Khalifa Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, at the UAE University (UAEU), answered the question on whether the coastal sabkha is alive or not.

The genomic analysis of 225 sabkhas in the UAE revealed that this arid environment provides a habitat for various microbial life forms.

The study was published in “Scientific Reports”, a reputable scientific journal. It was conducted by a group of researchers spearheaded by Professor Khaled Amiri, Chairman of the Biology Department and Director of the Khalifa Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, in cooperation with researchers from New York University and students from the Department of Biology at UAEU.

Professor Amiri said, “This study is highly innovative; it answers a significant question regarding the living environment in the salt flats or what is known as sabkhas. The scientific knowledge generated from this research is essential to solving agricultural challenges faced within arid environments. This contributes to scientific research supporting food security both locally and globally. The full genome sequence of the natural population of the microbiome of the sabkhas revealed various biological metabolisms, with the Cyanobacteriales species being at the heart of light-driven metabolic processes in the high saline sabkhas. Moreover, we found that the large-scale interdependence of cyanobacteria in juxtaposition with other microbial assemblages may be a crucial factor in thriving, dynamic sabkha development over the years.”

“Salt stress tolerance genes were identified along with the genes associated with biomineralisation, such as biodegradation. Moreover, salt constitutes the primary force that led to this microbiological diversity in these environments. The beneficial genes are detected and transferred within the microbial community, allowing an enhanced ability for adaptation in this harsh environment. Plants are very limited in sabkhas due to the high concentration of salt and other abiotic residues. Identifying the microorganisms that help alleviate and enhance abiotic stress for agricultural application paves the way for more research paths,” he added.

The Khalifa Centre investigates the mechanisms of these processes and the different types of interactions focusing on microbial communities, which are beneficial for biosaline agriculture. Studying the microbial populations of these hypersaline mudflats is a creative standpoint in industrial applications.

Source: Emirates News Agency