Bacterioplankton productivity in lakes of the Taylor Valley, Antarctica, during the polar night transition

TitleBacterioplankton productivity in lakes of the Taylor Valley, Antarctica, during the polar night transition
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsVick-Majors, TJ, Priscu, JC
JournalAquatic Microbial Ecology
Pagination77 - 90
Date Published12/2013

Research on the lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, is typically conducted during the period of 24 h sunlight (October to January) when logistical support is readily available. As part of the International Polar Year initiative, we obtained logistical support to study microbial dynamics in the permanently ice-covered lakes of the Taylor Valley during the transition from 24 h of sunlight to the complete darkness of the polar night (mid-April). Our study focused on the perennially ice-covered lakes Fryxell (FRX), East Lobe Bonney (ELB), and West Lobe Bonney (WLB), all of which are chemically stratified and have food webs dominated by microorganisms. Depth-integrated bacterioplankton productivity (BP; leucine incorporation [Leu] and thymidine incorporation [TdR]) in the lakes ranged from 1.2 to 3.4 mg C m−2 d−1. Overall, summer was characterized by relatively high rates of BP and photoautotrophic primary productivity. Rapid decreases in photosynthetically active radiation marked a subsequent transition period, which was characterized by variable cell counts and decreasing Leu:TdR ratios (ratios >1 signify a physiological shift from growth to maintenance mode). Finally, cell counts decreased and Leu:TdR increased by as much as 280% during the fall, revealing a distinct change in the physiological state of the bacterioplankton as light-mediated primary productivity ceased. Our data reveal that the shift in physiological state may result from a switch from contemporary phytoplankton-excreted carbon to other sources of dissolved organic carbon, which can support the bacterioplankton populations through the winter.

Short TitleAquat. Microb. Ecol.