Cowan, D.A., Pointing, S.B., Stevens, M.I., Cary, S.C., Stomeo, F. & Tuffin, I.M. (2010). Distribution and abiotic influences on hypolithic microbial communities in an Antarctic Dry Valley. Polar Biology, 34(2), 307-311.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4433
The Miers Valley within the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica supports abundant quartz and marble substrates for hypolithons—microbial colonists on the underside of these translucent rocks. Three physically distinct hypolithic community types have been identified: cyanobacteria dominated (Type I), fungus dominated (Type II) or moss dominated (Type III). The distribution of the three types was mapped across much of the ~75 km2 area of the upper Miers Valley and correlated this with the measurements of selected micro-environmental variables. Type I hypolithons were most common and occurred at all altitudes up to 824 m, whilst Type II and Type III hypolithons were less abundant and restricted to lower altitudes on the valley floor (<415 m and <257 m, respectively). Whilst all colonized quartz effectively filtered incident UVB irradiance, transmittance levels for UVA and PAR varied markedly and were significant in determining hypolith type. Notably, the Type I hypolithons occurred under rocks with a significantly lower transmittance of photosynthetically active radiation than Type II and III hypolithons. Altitude and aspect were also significant factors determining hypolith type, and a role for altitude-related abiotic variables in determining the distribution of Type I, II and III hypolithons is proposed.