Dominant bacteria in soils of Marble Point and Wright Valley, Victoria Land, Antarctica

Jackie M. Aislabie*, Kim Ly Chhour, David J. Saul, Shingo Miyauchi, Julie Ayton, Ron F. Paetzold, Megan R. Balks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Citations (Scopus)


A combination of culture-independent and culturing methods was used to assess the diversity of soil bacterial communities from four locations along 77 °S in Victoria Land, Antarctica. Soil samples were from the coast at Marble Point, in the Wright Valley from Bull Pass and near Lake Vanda, and from Mt. Fleming near the polar plateau. Total carbon and nitrogen, and water content of the soils were low, whereas total P was very high. The pH of the soils varied from extremely alkaline to slightly acid and electrical conductivity was medium to high on the coast and very high in inland soils from Bull Pass and Mt. Fleming. The average monthly air temperature was similar (-18 °C to -24 °C) at all the sites; however, in summer surface soil temperatures were >0 °C at Marble Point and in the Wright Valley for a total of 1100 and 1700 h, respectively. Marble Point soil had the most potential to support bacterial growth and activity with a mean total of 310 h per year when surface soils had a liquid volumetric soil moisture content >5%. Highest counts of culturable heterotrophs occurred in soil from Marble Point, whereas Mt. Fleming soil contained few organisms and had no liquid soil moisture recorded. Seven hundred and twenty-eight clones and 71 bacterial isolates were screened by restriction fragment length polymorphisms, and representatives of those dominant ribotypes that occurred more than 3 times were sequenced. The dominant ribotypes grouped within the bacterial divisions Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, Thermus-Deinococcus, Acidobacteria, Firmicutes and Cyanobacteria. The closest relatives of the amplicon library clones or cultured bacteria include the genera Hymenobacter, Gillisia, Arthrobacter, Rubrobacter, Friedmanniella, Deinococcus and Leptolyngbya. Many of the clones and bacteria were most similar to others from Antarctic sources, in particular a cyanobacterium-dominated cryptoendolithic community in Beacon sandstone. Some ribotypes were more prevalent in drier soils of the Wright Valley, including relatives of Deinococcus, Rubrobacter and clone FBP460 from Beacon sandstone. Bacterial communities from Marble Point soils were more diverse than those of the Wright Valley. Very few bacteria were isolated from Mt. Fleming soil.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3041-3056
Number of pages16
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


  • Antarctic soil
  • Bacterial diversity
  • Soil temperature
  • Soil water
  • Victoria Land


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