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ISME J. 2008 Mar;2(3):308-20. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2007.104. Epub 2008 Jan 31.

Sources of edaphic cyanobacterial diversity in the Dry Valleys of Eastern Antarctica.

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  • 1Coastal and Freshwater Group, Cawthron Institute, Nelson, New Zealand.


Cyanobacteria are major components of Antarctic Dry Valley ecosystems. Their occurrence in lakes and ponds is well documented, however, less is known about their distribution in edaphic environments. There has been considerable debate about the contribution of aquatic organic matter derived largely from cyanobacteria to terrestrial ecosystems. In this study, automated rRNA intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA) and 16S rRNA gene clone libraries were used to investigate cyanobacterial diversity in a range of soil environments within the Miers and Beacon Valleys. These data were used to elucidate the input of aquatic cyanobacteria to soil communities. Thirty-eight samples were collected from a variety of soil environments including dry and moist soils, hypoliths and lake and hydroterrestrial microbial mats. The results from the ARISA and 16S rRNA clone library analysis demonstrated that diverse cyanobacterial communities exist within the mineral soils of the Miers Valley. The soil samples from Beacon Valley were depauparate in cyanobacterial signals. Within Miers Valley, significant portions (29%-58%) of ARISA fragment lengths found in aquatic cyanobacterial mats were also present in soil and hypolith samples, indicating that lacustrine and hydroterrestrial cyanobacteria play a significant role in structuring soil communities. The influence of abiotic variables on the community structure of soil samples was assessed using BEST analysis. The results of BEST analysis of samples from within Miers Valley showed that total percentage of carbon content was the most important variable in explaining differences in cyanobacterial community structure. The BEST analyses indicated that four elements contributed significantly to species compositional differences between valleys. We suggest that the complete absence of lakes or ponds from Beacon Valley is a contributing factor to the low cyanobacterial component of these soils.

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