Soil microbial carbon and nitrogen transformations at a glacial foreland on Anvers Island, Antarctic Peninsula

Sarah L. Strauss, Ferran Garcia-Pichel, Thomas Day

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Microbial communities can play a critical role in soil development and succession at glacial forelands through their contribution to soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling. Using a combination of molecular fingerprinting techniques and metabolic rate measurements, we examined the soil microbial community composition and key transformations in the C and N cycles at a glacial foreland on Anvers Island along the Antarctic Peninsula. Soils were sampled along transects representing a chronosequence of <1 to approximately 10 years since deglaciation. The soil microbial community was active adjacent to the receding edge of the glacier, where soil had been ice-free for <1 year. A survey of the microbial community composition identified typical soil bacterial species such as Arthrobacter and Sphingomonas, as well as known Antarctic heterotrophs, cyanobacteria and fungi. The soil C cycle over this zone was dominated by phototrophic microbial activity, while the N cycle was dominated by heterotrophic N 2-fixation and not cyanobacterial N 2-fixation as found at other recently deglaciated forelands. Other N transformations such as ammonia oxidation and denitrification appeared to be of limited relevance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1459-1471
Number of pages13
JournalPolar Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Glacial foreland
  • Nitrogen cycle
  • Nitrogen fixation
  • Soil development
  • Succession

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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