Diversity of microalgae and cyanobacteria communities in Antarctic soils: changes along soil developmental stages and abiotic variables and testing for endemism / geographical distribution


Funding: DFG Fr 905/20-1, within the DFG SPP 1158 DFG SPP 1158 Antarktisforschung mit vergleichenden Untersuchungen in arktischen Eisgebieten; from 10/2014 for three years
PI: Prof. Dr. Thomas Friedl

Antarctic soils are ideal places to study particular features of soil microalgae and cyanobacteria left unexplored so far. These include inferring pioneer species at the colonization of young soils poor in nutrients and the development of soil microalgal communities without anthropogenic influence and that of vascular plant cover under harsh environmental conditions.

  • The central research question of the project is to test for possible correlations of changes in algal/cyanobacteria soil communities with various developmental stages of soil, at different stages of (biogenic) weathering as well as a of a range of abiotic soil variables.The analyses will clarify the role of microalgae and cyanobacteria in the fueling of young soils with energy for biogenic weathering processes as well as their contribution to geochemical cycles.Finally, the analyses will allow inferring possible functional/ecophysiological traits of Antarctic soil algae.
  • It will also be investigated whether the geographical remoteness of Antarctica and its particular harsh environmental conditions allowed for the development of particularly adapted Antarctic soil algal populations distinct at the genotypic level from their counterparts of temperate regions.

  • Soil samples along chronosequences from Antarctic glacier forefields (Maritime Antarctica and East Antarctica Continent), but also the dryer Polygon soils (Coal Nunatak) will be investigated. They will be provided and their abiotic variables determined through collaborations within the SPP 1158.