Microbial communities contribute eminently to the overall biomass and biodiversity in the Arctic environment. Their activity fuels biogeochemical cycling in sea ice, water column and sediment and is therefore crucial for the ecosystem’s functioning.
Planktonic primary producers and sea-ice algae form the basis of the Arctic food web by using sunlight and CO2 and water to build up organic material. This material can be further used by larger size-classed organisms or sinks out of the photic zone towards the deep sea, feeding communities in the deeper water column and at the seafloor. Bacteria can break down this material, allowing them to recycle nutrients and to return them back into the environment. Their involvement in carbon and nutrient cycling thereby provides an essential service to the primary producers.
However, the Arctic has been undergoing severe changes over the last decades, most evident in a warming trend that is three times the global average and a loss in sea-ice extent and volume. Despite the key role of microbial communities for the ecosystem, we still have very limited understanding of the communities’ resilience to these changes and the consequences for their diversity, activity and specific ecological function.
By contributing to the work at the LTER observatory HAUSGARTEN, we try to improve our knowledge of temporal and spatial microbial dynamics along environmental gradients. Furthermore, we combine classical culturing techniques, diversity surveys, ‘omics and single-cell technologies to investigate function and activity of microbes in different Arctic environments.
Boetius, A., Anesio, A.M., Deming, J.W., Mikucki, J.A., Rapp, J.Z. (2015): Microbial ecology of the cryosphere: sea ice and glacial habitats. Nature Reviews Microbiology 13: 677–690. doi:10.1038/nrmicro3522
Fernandez-Mendez, M., Wenzhöfer, F., Peeken, I., Sørensen, H.L., Glud, R., Boetius, A. (2014): Composition, Buoyancy Regulation and Fate of Ice Algal Aggregates in the Central Arctic Ocean. PLOS One 9(9): e107452. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0107452
Zinger, L., Boetius, A., Ramette, A. (2014). Bacterial taxa-area and distance-decay relationships in marine environments. Molecular Ecology 23(4): 954-964.
Jacob, M., Soltwedel, T., Boetius, A., Ramette, A. (2013): Biogeography of benthic bacteria at regional scale in the deep Fram Strait (LTER HAUSGARTEN, Arctic), PLOS One 8:9, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0072779