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Resolving environmental drivers of microbial community structure in Antarctic soils

  • Julie L. Smith (a1), John E. Barrett (a2), Gábor Tusnády (a3), Lídia Rejtö (a4) and S. Craig Cary (a1) (a5)...


Antarctic soils are extremely cold, dry, and oligotrophic, yet harbour surprisingly high bacterial diversity. The severity of environmental conditions has constrained the development of multi-trophic communities, and species richness and distribution is thought to be driven primarily by abiotic factors. Sites in northern and southern Victoria Land were sampled for bacterial community structure and soil physicochemical properties in conjunction with the US and New Zealand Latitudinal Gradient Project. Bacterial community structure was determined using a high-resolution molecular fingerprinting method for 80 soil samples from Taylor Valley and Cape Hallett sites which are separated by five degrees of latitude and have distinct soil chemistry. Taylor Valley is part of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, while Cape Hallett is the site of a penguin rookery and contains ornithogenic soils. The influence of soil moisture, pH, conductivity, ammonia, nitrate, total nitrogen and organic carbon on community structure was revealed using Spearman rank correlation, Mantel test, and principal components analysis. High spatial variability was detected in bacterial communities and community structure was correlated with soil moisture and pH. Both unique and shared bacterial community members were detected at Taylor Valley and Cape Hallett despite the considerable distance between the sites.


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