Microbes influence the biogeochemical and optical properties of maritime Antarctic snow

A. J. Hodson, A. Nowak, J. Cook, M. Sabacka, E. S. Wharfe, D. A. Pearce, P. Convey, G. Vieira
2017 Journal of Geophysical Research - Biogeosciences  
Snowmelt in the Antarctic Peninsula region has increased significantly in recent decades, leading to greater liquid water availability across a more expansive area. As a consequence, changes in the biological activity within wet Antarctic snow require consideration if we are to better understand terrestrial carbon cycling on Earth's coldest continent. This paper therefore examines the relationship between microbial communities and the chemical and physical environment of wet snow habitats on
more » ... ingston Island of the maritime Antarctic. In so doing, we reveal a strong reduction in bacterial diversity and autotrophic biomass within a short (<1 km) distance from the coast. Coastal snowpacks, fertilized by greater amounts of nutrients from rock debris and marine fauna, develop obvious, pigmented snow algal communities that control the absorption of visible light to a far greater extent than with the inland glacial snowpacks. Absorption by carotenoid pigments is most influential at the surface, while chlorophyll is most influential beneath it. The coastal snowpacks also indicate higher concentrations of dissolved inorganic carbon and CO 2 in interstitial air, as well as a close relationship between chlorophyll and dissolved organic carbon (DOC). As a consequence, the DOC resource available in coastal snow can support a more diverse bacterial community that includes microorganisms from a range of nearby terrestrial and marine habitats. Therefore, since further expansion of the melt zone will influence glacial snowpacks more than coastal ones, care must be taken when considering the types of communities that may be expected to evolve there. If Antarctic snow represents an important ecosystem in its own right, then addressing uncertainty over the biomass and activity of its resident microorganisms will improve our understanding of melt-driven greenhouse gas exchange across the largest terrestrial interface with Antarctica's atmosphere (i.e., the net HODSON ET AL. ANTARCTIC SNOW BIOGEOCHEMISTRY 1456 PUBLICATIONS
doi:10.1002/2016jg003694 fatcat:te76ry43yve6vawvmlimto45d4