There is now compelling evidence that microbially mediated reactions impart a significant effect upon the dynamics, composition, and abundance of nutrients in glacial melt water. Consequently, we must now consider ice masses as ecosystem habitats in their own right and address their diversity, functional potential, and activity as part of alpine and polar environments. Although such research is already underway, its fragmentary nature provides little basis for developing modern concepts of glacier ecology. This paper therefore provides a much-needed framework for development by reviewing the physical, biogeochemical, and microbiological characteristics of microbial habitats that have been identified within glaciers and ice sheets. Two key glacial ecosystems emerge, one inhabiting the glacier surface (the supraglacial ecosystem) and one at the ice-bed interface (the subglacial ecosystem). The supraglacial ecosystem is characterized by a diverse consortium of microbes (usually bacteria, algae, phytoflagellates, fungi, viruses and occasional rotifers, tardigrades, and diatoms) within the snowpack, supraglacial streams, and melt pools (cryoconite holes). The subglacial system is dominated by aerobic/anaerobic bacteria and most probably viruses in basal ice/till mixtures and subglacial lakes. A third, so-called englacial ecosystem is also described, but it is demonstrated that conditions within glacier ice are sufficient to make metabolic activity and its impact upon nutrient dynamics negligible at the glacier scale.Consideration of the surface and internal heat balances of the glacier show that all glacial ecosystems are sensitive to climate change, although at different timescales. Thus, while rapid, melt-driven habitat changes lead to melt-out, resuscitation, and redistribution of microorganisms in many supraglacial ecosystems, much slower climatic and glacial mass-balance processes effect such changes in the subglacial ecosystem. Paradoxically, it is shown that these forces have brought about net refreezing and the onset of cryostasis in the subglacial ecosystems of many Arctic glaciers subject to thinning in recent decades.
The average air temperature at the Earth's surface has increased by 0.06 degrees C per decade during the 20th century, and by 0.19 degrees C per decade from 1979 to 1998. Climate models generally predict amplified warming in polar regions, as observed in Antarctica's peninsula region over the second half of the 20th century. Although previous reports suggest slight recent continental warming, our spatial analysis of Antarctic meteorological data demonstrates a net cooling on the Antarctic continent between 1966 and 2000, particularly during summer and autumn. The McMurdo Dry Valleys have cooled by 0.7 degrees C per decade between 1986 and 2000, with similar pronounced seasonal trends. Summer cooling is particularly important to Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems that are poised at the interface of ice and water. Here we present data from the dry valleys representing evidence of rapid terrestrial ecosystem response to climate cooling in Antarctica, including decreased primary productivity of lakes (6-9% per year) and declining numbers of soil invertebrates (more than 10% per year). Continental Antarctic cooling, especially the seasonality of cooling, poses challenges to models of climate and ecosystem change.
SUMMARY Persistently cold environments constitute one of our world's largest ecosystems, and microorganisms dominate the biomass and metabolic activity in these extreme environments. The stress of low temperatures on life is exacerbated in organisms that rely on photoautrophic production of organic carbon and energy sources. Phototrophic organisms must coordinate temperature-independent reactions of light absorption and photochemistry with temperature-dependent processes of electron transport and utilization of energy sources through growth and metabolism. Despite this conundrum, phototrophic microorganisms thrive in all cold ecosystems described and (together with chemoautrophs) provide the base of autotrophic production in low-temperature food webs. Psychrophilic (organisms with a requirement for low growth temperatures) and psychrotolerant (organisms tolerant of low growth temperatures) photoautotrophs rely on low-temperature acclimative and adaptive strategies that have been described for other low-temperature-adapted heterotrophic organisms, such as cold-active proteins and maintenance of membrane fluidity. In addition, photoautrophic organisms possess other strategies to balance the absorption of light and the transduction of light energy to stored chemical energy products (NADPH and ATP) with downstream consumption of photosynthetically derived energy products at low temperatures. Lastly, differential adaptive and acclimative mechanisms exist in phototrophic microorganisms residing in low-temperature environments that are exposed to constant low-light environments versus high-light- and high-UV-exposed phototrophic assemblages.
Liquid water has been known to occur beneath the Antarctic ice sheet for more than 40 years, but only recently have these subglacial aqueous environments been recognized as microbial ecosystems that may influence biogeochemical transformations on a global scale. Here we present the first geomicrobiological description of water and surficial sediments obtained from direct sampling of a subglacial Antarctic lake. Subglacial Lake Whillans (SLW) lies beneath approximately 800 m of ice on the lower portion of the Whillans Ice Stream (WIS) in West Antarctica and is part of an extensive and evolving subglacial drainage network. The water column of SLW contained metabolically active microorganisms and was derived primarily from glacial ice melt with solute sources from lithogenic weathering and a minor seawater component. Heterotrophic and autotrophic production data together with small subunit ribosomal RNA gene sequencing and biogeochemical data indicate that SLW is a chemosynthetically driven ecosystem inhabited by a diverse assemblage of bacteria and archaea. Our results confirm that aquatic environments beneath the Antarctic ice sheet support viable microbial ecosystems, corroborating previous reports suggesting that they contain globally relevant pools of carbon and microbes that can mobilize elements from the lithosphere and influence Southern Ocean geochemical and biological systems.
Data from ice 3590 meters below Vostok Station indicate that the ice was accreted from liquid water associated with Lake Vostok. Microbes were observed at concentrations ranging from 2.8 x 10(3) to 3.6 x 10(4) cells per milliliter; no biological incorporation of selected organic substrates or bicarbonate was detected. Bacterial 16S ribosomal DNA genes revealed low diversity in the gene population. The phylotypes were closely related to extant members of the alpha- and beta-Proteobacteria and the Actinomycetes. Extrapolation of the data from accretion ice to Lake Vostok implies that Lake Vostok may support a microbial population, despite more than 10(6) years of isolation from the atmosphere.
MotivationThe BioTIME database contains raw data on species identities and abundances in ecological assemblages through time. These data enable users to calculate temporal trends in biodiversity within and amongst assemblages using a broad range of metrics. BioTIME is being developed as a community‐led open‐source database of biodiversity time series. Our goal is to accelerate and facilitate quantitative analysis of temporal patterns of biodiversity in the Anthropocene.Main types of variables includedThe database contains 8,777,413 species abundance records, from assemblages consistently sampled for a minimum of 2 years, which need not necessarily be consecutive. In addition, the database contains metadata relating to sampling methodology and contextual information about each record.Spatial location and grainBioTIME is a global database of 547,161 unique sampling locations spanning the marine, freshwater and terrestrial realms. Grain size varies across datasets from 0.0000000158 km2 (158 cm2) to 100 km2 (1,000,000,000,000 cm2).Time period and grainBioTIME records span from 1874 to 2016. The minimal temporal grain across all datasets in BioTIME is a year.Major taxa and level of measurementBioTIME includes data from 44,440 species across the plant and animal kingdoms, ranging from plants, plankton and terrestrial invertebrates to small and large vertebrates.Software format.csv and .SQL.
An active microbial assemblage cycles sulfur in a sulfate-rich, ancient marine brine beneath Taylor Glacier, an outlet glacier of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, with Fe(III) serving as the terminal electron acceptor. Isotopic measurements of sulfate, water, carbonate, and ferrous iron and functional gene analyses of adenosine 5'-phosphosulfate reductase imply that a microbial consortium facilitates a catalytic sulfur cycle. These metabolic pathways result from a limited organic carbon supply because of the absence of contemporary photosynthesis, yielding a subglacial ferrous brine that is anoxic but not sulfidic. Coupled biogeochemical processes below the glacier enable subglacial microbes to grow in extended isolation, demonstrating how analogous organic-starved systems, such as Neoproterozoic oceans, accumulated Fe(II) despite the presence of an active sulfur cycle.
The permanent ice covers of Antarctic lakes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys develop liquid water inclusions in response to solar heating of internal aeolian-derived sediments. The ice sediment particles serve as nutrient (inorganic and organic)-enriched microzones for the establishment of a physiologically and ecologically complex microbial consortium capable of contemporaneous photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, and decomposition. The consortium is capable of physically and chemically establishing and modifying a relatively nutrient- and organic matter-enriched microbial "oasis" embedded in the lake ice cover.
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