ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints202209.0065.v1
Subject: Biology, Ecology Keywords: Antarctica; microbial communities; refugia; metabarcoding; McMurdo Dry Valleys; soil biodiversity
Online: 5 September 2022 (13:39:20 CEST)
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 geochemical changes to soil ecosystems over several million years, while high elevation 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. Soil bacterial communities from 17 sites representing either putative refugia or sites disturbed during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) (22-17kya) were characterized using 16S metabarcoding. Regardless of geographic distance, several putative refugia sites at elevations above 600 meter 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 last glacial maximum. We suggest that similarities in microbial communities can be interpreted as evidence for historical climate legacies on an ecosystem-wide scale.