Skip to main content Accessibility help

The biogeochemistry of meltwater habitats in the Darwin Glacier region (80°S), Victoria Land, Antarctica

  • J. Webster-Brown (a1), M. Gall (a2), J. Gibson (a3), S. Wood (a4) and I. Hawes (a5)...

Meltwater habitats in the Darwin Glacier region, Victoria Land (80°S), were sampled in December 2007 and January 2009 to characterize their microbial and metazoan ecology, nutrient status and geochemistry. Targeted areas included terrestrial ponds of the Grant Valley, Lake Wellman, Tentacle Ridge and Diamond Hill, and supraglacial ponds and cryoconite holes of the lower Darwin Glacier. Geochemistry ranged from Na-Cl dominated terrestrial ponds to Na-HCO3 dominated, dilute supraglacial ponds and cryoconites. All showed the nitrate enrichment typical of inland ponds of Victoria Land (up to 13 g.l-1 NO3-N), with some precipitating nitratine (NaNO3) salt. Elevated pH indicated ongoing photosynthetic processes. Benthic microbial mats were thin and poorly developed, dominated by oscillatoriacean cyanobacteria. Nitrogen-fixing genera were generally absent and diatoms were rare. A large (20 μm long) Cyanothece species was the most abundant cyanobacterium in the water and in sediments of the cryoconites. DNA finger-printing identified distinct differences in cyanobacterial and bacterial community structure between the cryoconites, terrestrial ponds and ponds on glacial margins. Eleven metazoan species were identified, with rotifers being the most abundant. Pond substrate (terrestrial rock, ice-cored moraine or supraglacial ice) proved to be a more significant influence on biogeochemistry than other aspects of geography or climatic conditions.

Corresponding author
Hide All
Abdo, Z., Schüette, U., Bent, S., Williams, C., Forney, L. Joyce, P. 2006. Statistical methods for characterizing diversity of microbial communities by analysis of terminal restriction fragment length polymorphisms of 16S rRNA genes. Environmental Microbiology, 8, 929938.
Adams, B.J., Bardgett, R.D., Ayres, E., Wall, D.H., Aislabie, J., Bamforth, S., Bargagli, R., Cary, C., Cavacini, P., Connell, L., Convey, P., Fell, J.W., Frati, F., Hogg, I.D., Newsham, K.K., O’donnell, A., Russell, N., Seppelt, R.D. Stevens, M.I. 2006. Diversity and distribution of Victoria Land biota. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 38, 30033018.
Andrassy, I. 1998. Nematodes in the sixth continent. Journal of Nematode Systematics & Morphology, 1, 107186.
Andrassy, I. 2008. Eudorylaimus species (Nematoda: Dorylaimida) of continental Antarctica. Journal of Nematode Systematics and Morphology, 11, 4966.
Andrassy, I. Gibson, J.A.E. 2007. Nematodes from saline and freshwater lakes of the Vestfold Hills, including description of Hypodontolaimus antarcticus sp. n. Polar Biology, 30, 669678.
Bagshaw, E.A., Tranter, M., Fountain, A.G., Welch, K.A., Basagic, H. Lyons, W.B. 2007. Biogeochemical evolution of cryoconite holes on Canada Glacier, Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research, 12, GO4S35.
Binda, M.G. Pilato, G. 2000. Diphascon (Adropion) tricuspidatum, a new species of eutardigrade from Antarctica. Polar Biology, 23, 7576.
Broady, P.A. 1989. Survey of algae and other terrestrial biota at Edward VII Peninsula, Marie Byrd Land. Antarctic Science, 1, 215224.
Cardinale, M., Brusetti, L., Quatrini, P., Borin, S., Puglia, A., Rizzi, A., Zanardini, E., Sorlini, C., Corselli, C. Daffonchio, D. 2004. Comparison of different primer sets for use in automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis of complex bacterial communities. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 70, 61476156.
Christner, B.C. Kvitko, B.H. 2003. Molecular identification of bacteria and eukarya inhabiting an Antarctic cryoconite hole. Extremophiles, 7, 177183.
Dartnall, H.J.G. 2000. A limnological reconnaissance of the Vestfold Hills. ANARE Reports, 141, 155.
Dastych, H. 1991. Redescription of Hypsibius antarcticus (Richters, 1904), with some notes Hypsibius arcticus (Murray, 1907) (Tardigrada). Mitteilungen aus dem Hamburgischen Zoologischen Museum und Institut, 88, 141159.
Downes, M.T., Hrstich, L. Vincent, W. 1993. Extraction of chlorophyll and carotenoid pigments from Antarctic benthic mats for analysis by HPLC. Journal of Applied Phycology, 5, 623628.
Eaton, A., Franson, M. Clesceri, L., eds. 2005. Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association.
Foreman, C.M., Sattler, B., Mikucki, J.A., Porazinska, D.L. Priscu, J.C. 2006. Metabolic activity and diversity of cryoconites in the Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research, 112, 10.1029/2006JG000358.
Fountain, A.G., Tranter, M. Nylen, T.H. 2004. Cryoconite holes of Dry Valley glaciers, Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology, 50, 3545.
Fourre, J.-B.P., Dapoigny, A., Baumier, D., Petit, J.-R. Jouzel, J. 2006. Past and present tritium levels in Arctic and Antarctic polar caps. Earth & Planetary Science Letters, 245, 5664.
Hawes, I., Howard-Williams, C. Fountain, A.G. 2008. Ice-based freshwater ecosystems. In Vincent, W.F. & Laybourn-Parry, J., eds. Polar lakes and rivers: limnology of Arctic and Antarctic aquatic ecosystems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 103118.
Hawes, I., Howard-Williams, C. Pridmore, R.D. 1993. Environmental controls on microbial biomass in the ponds of the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Archiv fur Hydrobiologie, 127, 271287.
Hawes, I., Howard-Williams, C., Schwarz, A.-M.J. Downes, M.T. 1997. Environment and microbial communities in a tidal lagoon at Bratina Island, McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica. In Battaglia, B., Valencia, J. & Walton, D., eds. Antarctic communities: species, structure and survival. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 170177.
Healy, M., Webster-Brown, J.G., Brown, K.L. Lane, V. 2006. Chemistry and stratification of Antarctic meltwater ponds II: inland ponds in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Victoria Land. Antarctic Science, 18, 525533.
Hendy, C.H. 1975. Report of the University of Waikato Antarctic Research Unit for the 1974–75 field season. University of Waikato, New Zealand, unpublished report.
Hendy, C.H. 2000. Late Quarternary lakes in the McMurdo Sound region of Antarctica. Geografiska Annaler, 82A, 411431.
Howard-Williams, C., Hawes, I. Gordon, S. 2010. The environmental basis of ecosystem variability in Antarctica: research in the Latitude Gradient Project. Antarctic Science, 21.
Howard-Williams, C., Peterson, D., Lyons, W.B., Cattano-Vietti, R. Gordon, S. 2006. Measuring ecosystem response in a rapidly changing environment: the Latitude Gradient Project. Antarctic Science, 18, 465471.
John, D.M., Whitton, B.A. Brook, A.J., eds. 2002. The freshwater algal flora of the British Isles: an identification guide to freshwater and terrestrial algae. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 714 pp.
Jungblut, A., Hawes, I., Mountfort, D.O., Hitzfeld, B., Dietrich, D.R., Burns, B.P. Neilan, B.A. 2005. Diversity within cyanobacterial mat communities in variable salinity meltwater ponds of McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Environmental Microbiology, 7, 519529.
Keys, J.R. Williams, K. 1981. Origin of crystalline, cold desert salts in the McMurdo region, Antarctica. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 45, 22992309.
Komárek, J. Anagnostidis, K. 2000. Cyanoprokaryota. 1. Teil, Chroococcales. In Ettl, H., Gartner, G., Heynig, H. & Molllenhauer, D., eds. Susswasserflora von Mitteleuropa, vol. 19(1). Jena: Gustav Fisher, 548 pp.
Komárek, J. Anagnostidis, K. 2005. Cyanoprokaryota. 2. Teil, Oscillatoriales. In Budel, B., Krienitz, L., Gartner, G. & Schagerl, M., eds. Susswasserflora von Mitteleuropa, vol. 19(2). Jena: Gustav Fisher, 750 pp.
Lebaron, P., Parthuisot, N. Catala, P. 1998. Comparison of blue nucleic acid dyes for flow cytometric enumeration of bacteria in aquatic systems. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 64, 1725.
Mueller, D.R., Vincent, W.F., Pollard, W.H. Fritsen, C.H. 2001. Glacial cryoconite ecosystems: a bipolar comparison of algal communities and habitats. Nova Hedwigia, 123, 171195.
Murray, J. 1910. Antarctic Rotifera. In Murray, J., ed. British Antarctic Expedition, 1907–1909: Reports on the Scientific Investigations. Biology, Vol. I, part III. London: William Heinemann, 4173.
Pilato, G. Binda, M.G. 1999. Three new species of Diphascon of the pingue group (Eutardigrada, Hypsibiidae) from Antarctica. Polar Biology, 21, 335342.
Prescott, G.W. 1982. Algae of the western Great Lakes area. Dubuque, IA: WMC Brown Co. Publishers, 946 pp.
Quesada, A., Fernández-Valiente, E., Hawes, I. Howard-Williams, C. 2008. Benthic primary production in polar lakes and rivers. In Vincent W.F. & Laybourn-Parry J., eds. Polar lakes and rivers: Arctic and Antarctic aquatic ecosystems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 179196.
Schmidt, S., Moskal, W., de Mora, S.J., Howard-Williams, C. Vincent, W.F. 1991. Limnological properties of Antarctic ponds during winter freezing. Antarctic Science, 3, 379388.
Simpson, A.L. Cooper, A.F. 2002. Geochemistry of the Darwin Glacier region granitoids, southern Victoria Land. Antarctic Science, 14, 425426.
Strickland, J.D.H. Parsons, T.R. 1968. A practical handbook of seawater analysis. Fisheries Research Board Canada Bulletin, 167, 167311.
Sutherland, D. 2009. Microbial mat communities in response to recent changes in the physiochemical environment of the meltwater ponds on the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Polar Biology, 32, 10231032.
Takacs, C.T. Priscu, J.C. 1998. Bacterioplankton dynamics in the McMurdo Dry Valley lakes: production and biomass loss over four seasons. Microbiology Ecology, 36, 239250.
Taton, A., Grubisic, S., Balthasart, P., Hodgson, D.A., Laybourn-Parry, J. Wilmotte, A. 2006. Biogeographical distribution and ecological ranges of benthic cyanobacteria in East Antarctic lakes. FEMS Microbiological Ecology, 57, 272289.
Timperley, M. 1997. A simple temperature-based model the chemistry of melt-water ponds in the Darwin Glacier area, 80°S. In Lyons, W.B., Howard-Williams, C. & Hawes, I., eds. Ecosystem processes in Antarctic ice-free landscapes. Rotterdam: Balkema, 197206.
Ütermöhl, H. 1958. Zür Vervollkommung der quantitativen Phytoplankton-Methodik. Internationale Vereinigung für theoretische und angewandte Limnologie Mitteilungen, 9, 139.
Vincent, W.F. Howard-Williams, C. 1994. Nitrate-rich inland waters of the Ross Ice Shelf region, Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 6, 339346.
Wagner, B., Cremer, H., Hultzsch, N., Gore, D.B. Melles, M. 2004. Late Pleistocene and Holocene history of Lake Terrasovoje, Amery Oasis, East Antarctica, and its climatic and environmental implications. Journal of Palaeolimnology, 32, 321339.
Wait, B.R., Webster-Brown, J.G., Brown, K.L., Healy, M. Hawes, I. 2006. Chemistry and stratification of Antarctic meltwater ponds I: coastal ponds near Bratina Island (Lat 78°S), Ross Sea. Antarctic Science, 18, 515524.
Webster, J.G., Brown, K.L. Vincent, W.F. 1994. Geochemical processes affecting meltwater chemistry and the formation of saline ponds in the Victoria Valley and Bull Pass region, Antarctica. Hydrobiologia, 281, 171186.
Webster, J.G., Webster, K.S. Hawes, I. 1997. Trace metal transport and speciation in Lake Wilson: a comparison with Lake Vanda. In Lyons, W.B., Howard-Williams, C. & Hawes, I., eds. Ecosystem processes in Antarctic ice-free landscapes. Rotterdam: Balkema, 221230.
Webster, J.G., Hawes, I., Downes, M., Timperley, M. Howard-Williams, C. 1996. Evidence for regional climate change in the recent evolution of a high latitude pro-glacial lake. Antarctic Science, 8, 4959.
Wood, S., Rueckert, A., Cowan, D. Cary, S. 2008. Sources of edaphic cyanobacterial diversity in the Dry Valleys of eastern Antarctica. ISME Journal, 2, 308320.
Wright, S.W. Mantoura, R.F.C. 1997. Guidelines for collection and pigment analysis of field samples. In Jeffrey, S.W., Mantoura, R.F.C. & Wright, S.W., eds. Phytoplankton pigments in oceanography: guidelines to modern methods. Paris: UNESCO, 426445.
Zapata, M., Rodriguez, F. Garrido, J.L. 2000. Separation of chlorophylls and carotenoids from marine phytoplankton: a new HPLC method using reversed phase C8 column and pyridine-containing mobile phases. Marine Ecological Progress Series, 195, 2945.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Antarctic Science
  • ISSN: 0954-1020
  • EISSN: 1365-2079
  • URL: /core/journals/antarctic-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed