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Fungal diversity in soils and historic wood from the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica
- Arenz, B.E., Held, B.W., Jurgens, J.A., Farrell, R.L., Blanchette, R.A.
- Soil biology & biochemistry 2006 v.38 no.10 pp. 3057-3064
- soil fungi, wood, species diversity, Antarctica
- Microorganisms play a dominant role in Antarctic ecosystems, yet little is known about how fungal diversity differs at sites with considerable human activity as compared to those that are remote and relatively pristine. Ross Island, Antarctica is the site of three historic expedition huts left by early explorers to the South Pole, Robert F. Scott and Ernest Shackleton. The fungal diversity of these wooden structures and surrounding soils was investigated with traditional culturing methods as well as with molecular methodology including denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) using the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions of ribosomal DNA for identification. From historic wood and artifact samples and soils adjacent to the huts as well as soil samples obtained from the Lake Fryxell Basin, a remote Dry Valley location, and remote sites at Mt. Fleming and the Allan Hills, 71 fungal taxa were identified. The historic huts and associated artifacts have been colonized and degraded by fungi to various extents. The most frequently isolated fungal genera from the historic woods sampled include Cadophora, Cladosporium and Geomyces. Similar genera were found in soil samples collected near the huts. Sampling of soils from locations in the Transantarctic Mountains and Lake Fryxell Basin at considerable distances from the huts and with different soil conditions revealed Cryptococcus spp., Epicoccum nigrum and Cladosporium cladosporioides as the most common fungi present and Cadophora species less commonly isolated. DGGE revealed 28 taxa not detected by culturing including four taxa which possibly have not been previously described since they have less than 50% ITS sequence identity to any GenBank accessions. Fungi capable of causing degradation in the wood and artifacts associated with the expedition huts appear to be similar to those present in Antarctic soils, both near and at more remote locations. These species of fungi are likely indigenous to Antarctica and were apparently greatly influenced by the introduction of organic matter brought by early explorers. Considerable degradation has occurred in the wood and other materials by these fungi.