Advances in Microbial Ecology

Volume 11 of the series Advances in Microbial Ecology pp 71-146

Ecological Aspects of Antarctic Microbiology

  • David D. Wynn-WilliamsAffiliated withBritish Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council

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If the science of microbiology is approaching maturity, then Antarctic microbiology is only just emerging from its infancy. The early expeditions of the 20th century used classical medical methodology to isolate and identify bacteria, yeasts, and fungi from sea water, soil, snow, air, and animals (Ekelöf, 1908; Tsiklinsky, 1908; Gazert, 1912; McLean, 1918, 1919). The initial emphasis was on survey and taxonomy, although Gazert (1912) noted the influence of marine bacteria on nutrient cycling during the German Antarctic Expedition of 1901–03. However, it is Ekelöf of the Swedish National Antarctic Expedition 1901–03 who may be regarded as the father of Antarctic microbial ecology. Between February 1902 and November 1903, he made a seasonal study of the soil and air microbiota at Snow Hill Island (64° 30′S) off the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula (Fig. 1). Using rich medical media, he monitored viable bacteria, yeasts, and other microfungi but made no mention of the organisms resembling cyanobacteria and microalgae which are frequently the dominant primary producers in terrestrial Antarctic ecosystems (Ekelöf, 1908).