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Response of Cyanobacteria and Algae from Antarctic Wetland Habitats to Freezing and Desiccation Stress


Antarctic wetlands are characterized by the presence of liquid water during short austral summer. Filamentous cyanobacteria are often dominant there and are exposed to severe conditions, of which the changes in the desiccation–rehydration and freeze–thaw cycles are two of the most stressful. Vigor, after freezing and desiccation, was laboratory tested in cyanobacterial and algal strains from wetland habitats collected in maritime and continental Antarctica. Whereas minor sub-zero temperatures (−4°C), demonstrating summer diurnal freeze–thaws did not cause significant damage on either cyanobacteria or algae, low sub-zero temperatures (−40, −100, −196°C), demonstrating annual winter freeze, caused little harm to cyanobacteria, but was fatal for more than 50% of the population of algae. Freezing and desiccation tolerance of these strains was compared using multiregression methods: cyanobacteria from continental Antarctica were significantly more tolerant to low sub-zero temperatures than similar strains from maritime Antarctica (P = 0.026; F = 3.66); and cyanobacteria from seepages habitat were less tolerant to freezing and desiccation than cyanobacteria from other wetlands (P = 0.002; F = 5.69).

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This work was supported by the EU project QLRT-2000-01645 (COBRA), the GA CR project (206/05/0253) and grant MSM 143100007. We are also very grateful to captain Stuart Lawrence and his team of the British Antarctic Survey Research Vessel “Ernest Shackleton” for their warm hospitality and friendship during Josef Elster’s stay on board.

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Correspondence to Marie Šabacká.

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Šabacká, M., Elster, J. Response of Cyanobacteria and Algae from Antarctic Wetland Habitats to Freezing and Desiccation Stress. Polar Biol 30, 31–37 (2006).

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