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Phototrophic biofilm and microbial mat communities grow along the rocky coastline of the Maltese islands. This research involved studying phototrophs from the mediolittoral and supralittoral zones over a two-year period and seasonal changes were observed. Attachment of pioneer microorganisms to the porous eroded limestone bedrock was facilitated via a gelatinous matrix composed of exopolymeric substances (EPS). In submerged areas, such as undisturbed rock pools, these progressively formed green or brown compact biofilms, some of which thickened over the spring to form microbial mats via the production of more extensive EPS layers. Microbial mats gradually attained a lighter colouration due to the presence of ultraviolet (UV) screening pigments. In full summer, they were observed to shrink, detach from the exposed substrate, harden and progressively calcify. Biofilm microorganisms survived the harsh summer months in sheltered areas. The major biofilm formers were filamentous non-heterocytous cyanobacteria belonging to the Leptolyngbyaceae, Pseudanabaenaceae and Oscillatoriaceae. Their sheaths were thick, lamellated and often confluent. A higher biodiversity of phototrophs was observed in late autumn and winter, when tufts of heterocytous Calothrix sp. grew on thin compact biofilms of Nodosilinea sp., Toxifilum sp. and Phormidesmis spp., while Lyngbya spp. trichomes were surrounded by thick brown sheaths. Germlings of green and brown macroalgal species belonging to Ulva, Cladophora and Sphacelaria were embedded in biofilms and microbial mats and gradually grew to form extensive macroalgal covers submerged in rock pools. Erythrotrichia sp. filaments colonised the mediolittoral zone and were confined to areas that were exposed to wave action and submerged intermittently. Over the summer, macroalgal coverage diminished and microalgal biofilms and microbial mats prevailed in rock pools.
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