, Volume 5, Issue 11, pp 1395-1431

Microbial diversity and function in Antarctic freshwater ecosystems

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Freshwater lakes occur through much of Antarctica and are characterized by short food chains dominated by microbes. Comparatively few studies have been made of continental freshwater lakes until recently, with the main emphasis being on the less extreme maritime Antarctic lakes. The wide range of trophic status seen at the northern extremes of the maritime Antarctic reduces markedly further south, but a wide range of micro-organisms occur throughout the latitudinal range. Information on seasonal and spatial patterns of microbial activity for freshwater lakes demonstrate rapid changes in community composition at certain times of year despite constant low temperatures. Benthic communities of cyanobacteria and bacteria are a feature of most lakes and are involved in a wide range of geochemical cycling. There is a need for more detailed taxonomic information on most groups and considerable potential for molecular studies.