Hot Springs National Park, Microbial Diversity, Next Generation Sequencing, Thermophiles


The thermal water systems of Hot Springs National Park (HSNP) in Hot Springs, Arkansas exist in relative isolation from other North American thermal systems. The HSNP waters could therefore serve as a unique center of thermophilic microbial biodiversity. However, these springs remain largely unexplored using culture-independent next generation sequencing techniques to classify species of thermophilic organisms. Additionally, HSNP has been the focus of anthropogenic development, capping and diverting the springs for use in recreational bathhouse facilities. Human modification of these springs may have impacted the structure of these bacterial communities compared to springs left in a relative natural state. The goal of this study was to compare the community structure in two capped springs and two uncapped springs in HSNP, as well as broadly survey the microbial diversity of the springs. We used Illumina 16S rRNA sequencing of water samples from each spring, the QIIME workflow for sequence analysis, and generated measures of genera and phyla richness, diversity, and evenness. In total, over 700 genera were detected and most individual samples had more than 100 genera. There were also several uncharacterized sequences that could not be placed in known taxa, indicating the sampled springs contain undescribed bacteria. There was great variation both between sites and within samples, so no significant differences were detected in community structure between sites. Our results suggest that these springs, regardless of their human modification, contain a considerable amount of biodiversity, some of it potentially unique to the study site.