Metabolic activity and diversity of cyoconites in the Taylor Valley, Antarctica


Metabolic activity and biogeochemical diversity within cryoconites from the Canada,Commonwealth, Howard, and Hughes glaciers in the McMurdo Dry Valleys revealed the presence of a productive microbial refuge in this polar desert ecosystem. Fluorescent in situ hybridization showed a high percentage of Cytophaga-Flavobacteria cells in cryoconite sediments (87.2%), while β-Proteobacterial cells dominated the ice overlying the sediment layer (54.2%). The biomass of bacterial cells in the sediments was also greater (4.82 µgC ml-1) than that in the overlying ice (0.18 mgC ml-1) and was related to bacterial productivity (on the basis of thymidine incorporation), which ranged from 36 ng C l-1 d-1 in the overlying ice to 3329 ng C l-1 d -1 in the sediment-containing layers. Bacteria within both the sediments and overlying ice were able to actively incorporate and respire radio-labeled glucose, as well as 17 other dissolved organic carbon compounds. The cryoconites in the Taylor Valley support an active, diverse assemblage of organisms despite the fact that they may remain sealed from the atmosphere for decades. Given the density of the cryoconites in the dry valleys ( ~4–6% of ablation zone surfaces), flushing of the cryoconites during warm years could provide a vital nutrient and organic carbon source to the surrounding polar desert.




Foreman CM, Sattler B, Mikucki JA, Porazinska DL, Priscu JC, "Metabolic activity and diversity of cyoconites in the Taylor Valley, Antarctica," J Geophys Res Biogeosciences 112(G04S32):1-11 doi:10.1029/2006JG000358 (2007).
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