Role of Cyanobacteria in the Ecology of Polar Environments

  • Marc W. Van Goethem
  • Don A. CowanEmail author
Part of the Springer Polar Sciences book series (SPPS)


Cyanobacteria are the dominant living features of Antarctic terrestrial environments. They have the capacity to directly influence components of the cryosphere including nutrient acquisition, soil stabilisation and driving soil community structure. This book chapter incorporates recent literature to discuss how gradients of cyanobacterial abundance and diversity across Antarctic soil and lithic biotopes influence local biogeochemical cycling regimes, drive community structure and enhance primary productivity. Most recent studies have gleaned novel insights into the ecological importance of Antarctic cyanobacteria by applying so-called multi-‘omics’ technologies. While these breakthroughs have undoubtedly improved our understanding of metabolic potential in polar niches; cultivation-based analyses of cyanobacteria should be leveraged to gain perspectives into actual physiological attributes and morphological variation within Antarctica. Combined, these studies show that members of the cyanobacteria are critical carbon and nitrogen regulators and are essential for making nutrients available to associated community members.


Cyanobacteria Carbon biogeochemical cycling Nitrogen biogeochemical cycling Primary production Interactions in cryptic niches 



The authors thank the University of Pretoria and the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) for continued financial support of our research programmes.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics, Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and MicrobiologyUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

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