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Environ Microbiol. 2008 Jul;10(7):1713-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2008.01593.x. Epub 2008 Mar 28.

Microbial community composition in soils of Northern Victoria Land, Antarctica.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.


Biotic communities and ecosystem dynamics in terrestrial Antarctica are limited by an array of extreme conditions including low temperatures, moisture and organic matter availability, high salinity, and a paucity of biodiversity to facilitate key ecological processes. Recent studies have discovered that the prokaryotic communities in these extreme systems are highly diverse with patchy distributions. Investigating the physical and biological controls over the distribution and activity of microbial biodiversity in Victoria Land is essential to understanding ecological functioning in this region. Currently, little information on the distribution, structure and activity of soil communities anywhere in Victoria Land are available, and their sensitivity to potential climate change remains largely unknown. We investigated soil microbial communities from low- and high-productivity habitats in an isolated Antarctic location to determine how the soil environment impacts microbial community composition and structure. The microbial communities in Luther Vale, Northern Victoria Land were analysed using bacterial 16S rRNA gene clone libraries and were related to soil geochemical parameters and classical morphological analysis of soil metazoan invertebrate communities. A total of 323 16S rRNA gene sequences analysed from four soils spanning a productivity gradient indicated a high diversity (Shannon-Weaver values > 3) of phylotypes within the clone libraries and distinct differences in community structure between the two soil productivity habitats linked to water and nutrient availability. In particular, members of the Deinococcus/Thermus lineage were found exclusively in the drier, low-productivity soils, while Gammaproteobacteria of the genus Xanthomonas were found exclusively in high-productivity soils. However, rarefaction curves indicated that these microbial habitats remain under-sampled. Our results add to the recent literature suggesting that there is a higher biodiversity within Antarctic soils than previously expected.

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