Structuring effects of climate-related environmental factors on Antarctic microbial mat communities
Both ground-based and satellite data show that parts of Antarctica have entered a period of rapid climate change, which already affects the functioning and productivity of limnetic ecosystems. To predict the consequences of future climate anomalies for lacustrine microbial communities, we not only need better baseline information on their biodiversity but also on the climate-related environmental factors structuring these communities. Here we applied denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of the small subunit ribosomal DNA (SSU rDNA) to assess the genetic composition and distribution of Cyanobacteria and eukaryotes in 37 benthic microbial mat: samples from east Antarctic lakes. The lakes were selected to span a wide range of environmental gradients governed by differences in lake morphology and chemical limnology across 5 ice-free oases. Sequence analysis of selected DGGE bands revealed a high degree of potential endemism among the Cyanobacteria (mainly represented by Oscillatoriales and Nostocales), and the presence of a variety of protists (alveolates, stramenopiles and green algae), fungi, tardigrades and nematodes, which corroborates previous microscopy-based observations. Variation partitioning analyses revealed that the microbial mat community structure is largely regulated by both geographical and local environmental factors of which salinity (and related variables), lake water depth and nutrient concentrations are of major importance. These 3 groups of environmental variables have previously been shown to change drastically in Antarctica in response to climate change. Together, these results have obvious consequences for predicting the trajectory of biodiversity under changing climate conditions and call for the continued assessment of the biodiversity of these unique ecosystems.
Authors: Verleyen, Elie, Sabbe, Koen, Hodgson, Dominic A. ORCID record for Dominic A. Hodgson, Grubisic, Stana, Taton, Arnaud, Cousin, Sylvie, Wilmotte, Annick, De Wever, Aaike, Van der Gucht, Katleen, Vyverman, Wim