Glacial legacies: Microbial communities of Antarctic refugia

TitleGlacial legacies: Microbial communities of Antarctic refugia
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsJackson, AC, Jorna, J, Chaston, J, Adams, BJ
Date Published10/2022
KeywordsAntarctica, McMurdo Dry Valleys, metabarcoding, microbial communities, refugia, soil biodiversity

In the cold deserts of the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) the suitability of soil for microbial life is determined by both contemporary processes and legacy effects. Climatic changes and accompanying glacial activity have caused local extinctions and lasting geochemical changes to parts of these soil ecosystems over several million years, while areas of refugia may have escaped these disturbances and existed under relatively stable conditions. This study describes the impact of historical glacial and lacustrine disturbance events on microbial communities across the MDV to investigate how this divergent disturbance history influenced the structuring of microbial communities across this otherwise very stable ecosystem. Soil bacterial communities from 17 sites representing either putative refugia or sites disturbed during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) (22–17 kya) were characterized using 16 S metabarcoding. Regardless of geographic distance, several putative refugia sites at elevations above 600 m displayed highly similar microbial communities. At a regional scale, community composition was found to be influenced by elevation and geographic proximity more so than soil geochemical properties. These results suggest that despite the extreme conditions, diverse microbial communities exist in these putative refugia that have presumably remained undisturbed at least through the LGM. We suggest that similarities in microbial communities can be interpreted as evidence for historical climate legacies on an ecosystem-wide scale.