Bacterioplakton dynamics in stratified lakes of the Taylor Valley, Antarctica during the transition to polar night

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


Limnological research on the lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MCM), Antarctica, is typically carried out during the austral spring-summer (October January) when logistical support is readily available; the current study marks the first sampling effort during the summer-fall transition (January-April). Sampling during the darkness of winter is logistically difficult and expensive, and my study is an important step towards understanding the year-round ecology of the dry valley lakes. Bacterial productivity, measured as protein synthesis and DNA replication, and bacterial cell numbers were measured 10-12 times between October 2007 and April 2008 in Lakes Fryxell (FRX) and the east and west lobes of Lake Bonney (ELB and WLB). Lake Fryxell was the most productive (bacterial) lake on average by an order of magnitude (average = 1.24 mg C m -²d -¹; range = 0.00 to 3.29 mg C m -²d -¹), and also contained the greatest bacterial biomass (~10 ⁶ cells ml -¹) by 1 to 3 orders of magnitude. If bacterial production were directly linked to organic carbon supplied by photosynthetic primary production, a decrease in bacterial production would be expected during the sunset; however, no statistically significant change in bacterial production (a=0.05) was observed during the summer-fall transition. A distinct decoupling of bacterial protein production and DNA replication was detected in FRX and ELB of the lakes as the season progressed, and was present in WLB throughout the season, indicating either a shift towards a lower growth-rate in response to decreasing light or nutrient supply, or a mechanism for dealing with the perennially low temperatures, low light, and nutrient poor conditions in the lakes. Overall, it appears that bacterial communities remain active during the darkness of winter, when the lakes enter a period of "net heterotrophy", which cannot be sustained unless the carbon balance of the TV lakes is reset by climatic events.




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