Cowan, D.A., Sohm, J.A., Makhalanyane, T.P., Capone, D.G., Green, T.G.A. & Tuffin, I.M. (2011). Hypolithic communities: important nitrogen sources in Antarctic desert soils. Environmental Microbiology reports, published online 15 June 2011.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/5581
Hypolithic microbial communities (i.e. cryptic microbial assemblages found on the undersides of translucent rocks) are major contributors of carbon input into the oligotrophic hyper-arid desert mineral soils of the Eastern Antarctic Dry Valleys. Here we demonstrate, for the first time, that hypolithic microbial communities possess both the genetic capacity for nitrogen fixation (i.e. the presence of nifH genes) and the ability to catalyse acetylene reduction, an accepted proxy for dinitrogen fixation. An estimate of the total contribution of these communities suggests that hypolithic communities are important contributors to fixed nitrogen budgets in Antarctic desert soils.