, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 145-159
Date: 21 Jan 2010

Biodiversity of air-borne microorganisms at Halley station, Antarctica

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Abstract

A study of air-borne microbial biodiversity over an isolated scientific research station on an ice-shelf in continental Antarctica was undertaken to establish the potential source of microbial colonists. The study aimed to assess: (1) whether microorganisms were likely to have a local (research station) or distant (marine or terrestrial) origin, (2) the effect of changes in sea ice extent on microbial biodiversity and (3) the potential human impact on the environment. Air samples were taken above Halley Research Station during the austral summer and austral winter over a 2-week period. Overall, a low microbial biodiversity was detected, which included many sequence replicates. No significant patterns were detected in the aerial biodiversity between the austral summer and the austral winter. In common with other environmental studies, particularly in the polar regions, many of the sequences obtained were from as yet uncultivated organisms. Very few marine sequences were detected irrespective of the distance to open water, and around one-third of sequences detected were similar to those identified in human studies, though both of these might reflect prevailing wind conditions. The detected aerial microorganisms were markedly different from those obtained in earlier studies over the Antarctic Peninsula in the maritime Antarctic.

Communicated by T. Matsunaga.