Cardiff University | Prifysgol Caerdydd ORCA
Online Research @ Cardiff 
WelshClear Cookie - decide language by browser settings

Physiological capabilities of cryoconite hole microorganisms

Poniecka, Ewa A., Bagshaw, Elizabeth A. ORCID:, Sass, Henrik ORCID:, Segar, Amelia, Webster, Gordon ORCID:, Williamson, Christopher, Anesio, Alexandre M. and Tranter, Martyn 2020. Physiological capabilities of cryoconite hole microorganisms. Frontiers in Microbiology 11 , 1783. 10.3389/fmicb.2020.01783

[thumbnail of Bagshaw.pdf]
PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (1MB) | Preview


Cryoconite holes are miniature freshwater aquatic ecosystems that harbor a relatively diverse microbial community. This microbial community can withstand the extreme conditions of the supraglacial environment, including fluctuating temperatures, extreme and varying geochemical conditions and limited nutrients. We analyzed the physiological capabilities of microbial isolates from cryoconite holes from Antarctica, Greenland, and Svalbard in selected environmental conditions: extreme pH, salinity, freeze-thaw and limited carbon sources, to identify their physiological limits. The results suggest that heterotrophic microorganisms in cryoconite holes are well adapted to fast-changing environmental conditions, by surviving multiple freeze-thaw cycles, a wide range of salinity and pH conditions and scavenging a variety of organic substrates. Under oxic and anoxic conditions, the communities grew well in temperatures up to 30°C, although in anoxic conditions the community was more successful at colder temperatures (0.2°C). The most abundant cultivable microorganisms were facultative anaerobic bacteria and yeasts. They grew in salinities up to 10% and in pH ranging from 4 to 10.5 (Antarctica), 2.5 to 10 (Svalbard), and 3 to 10 (Greenland). Their growth was sustained on at least 58 single carbon sources and there was no decrease in viability for some isolates after up to 100 consecutive freeze-thaw cycles. The elevated viability of the anaerobic community in the lowest temperatures indicates they might be key players in winter conditions or in early melt seasons, when the oxygen is potentially depleted due to limited flow of meltwater. Consequently, facultative anaerobic heterotrophs are likely important players in the reactivation of the community after the polar night. This detailed physiological investigation shows that despite inhabiting a freshwater environment, cryoconite microorganisms are able to withstand conditions not typically encountered in freshwater environments (namely high salinities or extreme pH), making them physiologically more similar to arid soil communities. The results also point to a possible resilience of the most abundant microorganisms of cryoconite holes in the face of rapid change regardless of the location.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Frontiers Media
ISSN: 1664-302X
Funders: NERC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 3 August 2020
Date of Acceptance: 7 July 2020
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2023 16:21

Citation Data

Cited 10 times in Scopus. View in Scopus. Powered By Scopus® Data

Actions (repository staff only)

Edit Item Edit Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics