Microbial diversity in Antarctic soils

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: Biological and Environmental Sciences


Antarctica is the most southerly continent and it covers the south pole. Most of Antarctica is covered by ice, but in many places around the edges of the continent and on many of the islands in the ocean around Antarctica there is some ice-free land. This ice-free land includes parts of the South Orkney Islands (including the British Antarctic Survey [BAS] base at Signy Island), the South Shetland Islands, Adelaide Island (including the BAS base at Rothera), and Alexander Island (including the BAS station at Fossil Bluff). These places are all in the part of Antarctica directly to the south of South America and are going to be the sites used in this research project. These sites cover a distance of about 1600 km stretching from about 61ºS (Signy) to 72ºS (Fossil Bluff) and with increasing distance to the south, the conditions become colder and drier, and this has an important effect on the numbers, the different types and the activities of the organisms that live on the land. These organisms include some plants, which become very rare and eventually disappear in the south, and microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi living in the soil. The aim of this research project is to determine which organisms live in the soils of the different sites, how they live together in the different communities and how they are affected by changes to environmental factors such as temperature and the availability of liquid water. Knowing how the organisms are affected by changing environmental factors is important because Antarctica in general and especially the part of Antarctica where this project will be based is responding fastest to climate changes and is an important indicator of change for the rest of the world.


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