Deep chlorophyll maxima (DCM) and metalimnetic oxygen maxima (MOM) are outstanding biogeochemical features of acidic pit lakes (APL). However, knowledge of the eukaryotic phototrophs responsible for their formation is limited. We aimed at linking the dynamics of phototrophic communities inhabiting meromictic APL in Spain with the formation of these characteristic layers. Firstly, the dynamics of DCM and MOM and their relation to physico-chemical parameters (photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), pH, dissolved ferric iron concentration, temperature), pigments and nutrient distribution is described; secondly, the phototrophic community composition is studied through a combination of microscopy, biomolecular and “omics” tools. Phototrophic communities of the studied APL show a low diversity dominated by green microalgae, specifically Coccomyxa
sp., which have been successfully adapted to the chemically harsh conditions. DCM and MOM are usually non-coincident. DCM correspond to layers where phototrophs have higher chlorophyll content per cell to cope with extremely low PAR (<1 µmol m−2
), but where photosynthetic oxygen production is limited. MOM correspond to shallower waters with more light, higher phytoplankton biomass and intense photosynthetic activity, which affects both oxygen concentration and water temperature. The main drivers of DCM formation in these APL are likely the need for nutrient uptake and photo-acclimation.
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