AME 59:11-24 (2010)  -  doi:10.3354/ame01378

Structuring effects of climate-related environmental factors on Antarctic microbial mat communities

Elie Verleyen1,*, Koen Sabbe1, Dominic A. Hodgson2, Stana Grubisic3, Arnaud Taton3,4, Sylvie Cousin1,5, Annick Wilmotte3, Aaike De Wever1, Katleen Van der Gucht1, Wim Vyverman1

1Protistology & Aquatic Ecology, Department of Biology, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281 - S8, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
2British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
3Centre for Protein Engineering, Institute of Chemistry B6, Université de Liège, 4000 Liège, Belgium
4Present address: Center for the Study of Biological Complexity, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1000 W. Cary St.,  Richmond, Virginia 23284, USA
5Present address: Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Mascheroder Weg 1b, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany

ABSTRACT: 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.

KEY WORDS: Antarctica · Climate change · Lake · Microbial mats · DGGE

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Cite this article as: Verleyen E, Sabbe K, Hodgson DA, Grubisic S and others (2010) Structuring effects of climate-related environmental factors on Antarctic microbial mat communities. Aquat Microb Ecol 59:11-24

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