Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 18, Issue 8, pp 2715–2726 | Cite as

Dissolved organic matter, nutrients, and bacteria in Antarctic soil core from Schirmacher Oasis

  • Viia Lepane
  • Kai Künnis-Beres
  • Enn Kaup
  • Bhupesh Sharma
Humic Substances in the Environment



This study focuses on the application of HPLC in dissolved organic matter (DOM) research in Antarctic environment together with nutrients and heterotrophic bacteria (HB) analyses. The specific aims were to investigate changes in DOM components characteristics and in nutrients in soil core from ground active layer and upper permafrost, to relate obtained data to active heterotrophic bacteria records after applying statistical data treatment methods, and to explore the potential impact of environment.

Materials and methods

A single Antarctic 1.9-m deep soil core drilled at a site without human impact from Schirmacher Oasis, located 70° 46′ 02″ S and 11° 45′ 11″ E, was explored. The chromophoric DOM (CDOM) was characterized by soil water analysis using multi-wavelength HPLC. Total organic carbon and total nitrogen were determined by elemental analysis, the total phosphorus by inductively coupled plasma spectrometry. The vertical changes in those nutrients and their ratios were investigated. The microbiological analysis was accomplished through the determination of psychrotrophic and psychrophilic aerobic HB numbers by colony-forming units counting method, and by epifluorescence microscopy examination. Cluster analysis using the Ward method and principal component analysis was performed on the chromatographic and microbiology data to reveal similar layers in studied soil core.

Results and discussion

In active soil layer, the CDOM was missing thus indicating rather active decomposition of organic material or organic debris by the local microbial community. In deep permafrost layers, the quantity of CDOM preserved in soil water increased. The content of total organic carbon in soil was low, between 0.05 and 0.2%, and decreased down the core. The vertical changes in nutrients (total N and P), the ratios C/N and C/P, followed total organic carbon profile suggesting similar sources. Microbiological analyses showed decreasing vertical concentrations of active HB. Statistical data treatment methods enabled clustering of soil core into three zones according to depth.


The obtained results contribute to better understanding of organic carbon-related processes in an almost un-polluted Antarctic environment. The CDOM, macronutrients, C/N, C/P, and HB profile characteristics of the Antarctic soil core clearly demonstrate the effect of environment (active or permafrost soil layers). The study demonstrated that combining HPLC with multi-wavelength detection and microbial analyses with statistical data treatment is potentially a promising tool of investigating changes in Antarctic soil DOM and in soil waters generally.


Antarctic soil Dissolved organic matter Heterotrophic bacteria HPLC Nutrients 



The authors are thankful to the members of Indian Antarctic Expedition for logistic support and assistance during sampling.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Chemistry and BiotechnologyTallinn University of TechnologyTallinnEstonia
  2. 2.Institute of Marine SystemsTallinn University of TechnologyTallinnEstonia
  3. 3.Institute of GeologyTallinn University of TechnologyTallinnEstonia
  4. 4.Shriram Institute for Industrial ResearchDelhiIndia

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