Valencia is home to the first desert-like microbial community found in a city

December 16, 2015, Asociacion RUVID

Researchers at the Universitat de València (Universiity of Valencia, UV) have discovered that besides accumulating microorganisms from the air and dust particles, photovoltaic solar panels can also harbour rich and very well-adapted microbial communities of different bacteria and fungi.

Field work, carried out on nine solar panels located across three UV campuses, has revealed that the microbial communities inhabiting these panels have more in common with those typically found in hot or polar deserts, rather than in a Mediterranean city.

Barely any data exists on the microbial ecologies of solar panels. A recent study in Brazil already pointed to the existence of on solar panels; low in diversity, they are thought to affect the efficiency of the panels to generate energy. This study at the UV is the first to find a highly-diverse microbial community thriving on urban photovoltaic panels, pointing to the adaptive capacity of certain bacteria and fungi to extreme environments.

Highly diverse, and highly adaptive

Manuel Porcar of the UV explains: "The most abundant bacteria ('Deinococcus', 'Hymenobacter', etcetcera) found on the solar panels are not usually found in urban environments; rather they are more typical of hot and cold deserts (for example, the Sonoran Desert in Mexico or Antarctica). On Valencian rooftops, then, we find a unique and highly-diverse microbial community: the first intraurban microbial desert".

This unique microbial community shows different day/night proteomic profiles; that is, the structure, functions and interactions of their proteins are different at night than during the day. It is dominated by a reddish pigmentation and is adapted to withstand cycles of high temperatures, desiccation and solar radiation. Furthermore, these microorganisms display strong resistance to high salt concentrations, moderate to strong resistance to low pH, and relatively low resistance to UV light and extreme heat.

More than 800 different species of bacteria and fungi were found on the University's photovoltaic , followed a year later by a further 500.

According to Porcar, this desert-like microbial community which is "a clear example of the power of natural selection to adapt organisms to different living conditions". This finding may have important applications in biotechnology.

Explore further: A 'clear path' to solar power

More information: A highly diverse, desert-like microbial biocenosis on solar panels in a Mediterranean city. doi:

Related Stories

A 'clear path' to solar power

November 10, 2015

Solar cells integrated into new construction, particularly skyscrapers, are an enticing energy option. However, this effort can be hampered by the cost and architectural considerations sometimes needed to mount traditional ...

Bacteria's conflicts fuel synthetic ecology research

August 18, 2015

A common characteristic in mixed populations of microbes is that some bacteria, the "cooperators," dominate over others, the "cheaters." Cheaters use resources cooperators make and share. The result? The community suffers ...

High efficiency rating shines on Panasonic solar panel

October 13, 2015

How to get more electricity from a given area of solar panels—this is an important question that scientists explore as companies focus on the future of solar panels. Inhabitat said Panasonic has developed the most efficient ...

Yale engineer to build 'hot' solar cells

September 22, 2014

Associate professor of electrical engineering Minjoo Larry Lee has been awarded $2,540,000 to develop dual-junction solar cells that can operate efficiently at extreme temperatures above 750 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition ...

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

The friendly extortioner takes it all

February 15, 2019

Cooperating with other people makes many things easier. However, competition is also a characteristic aspect of our society. In their struggle for contracts and positions, people have to be more successful than their competitors ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.