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Even the apparently uniform environment of ice contains a network of liquid water veins brine veins that can transport soluble and insoluble particles and support life within it. Novel studies have demonstrated that active microbial respiration occurs within these ice structures and that there may have significant microbial variability within these ice-rich environments.

This diversity of polar environments is reflected in a wide diversity of cold adapted microorganisms which include members of the three domains of life, i. Together they cover a wide range of nutritional types including aerobes and anaerobes, heterotrophs and autotrophs as well as chemolithotrophs and chemoautotrophs. One of the most groundbreaking discoveries about cold environments in recent years was the unexpected finding beneath the Antarctic ice cap, a system of rivers and lakes which has been separated from the surrounding world for hundreds of thousands of years or longer.

This exciting and unexpected discovery of sub-glacial lakes and rivers has profound implications for our understanding of biology. These environments represent unique opportunities for exploring new forms of life adapted to extreme conditions and evolving in the absence of gene flow from outside biota, resulting in unique metabolically active microbial assemblages in terms of structure and function, with the potential to provide new insights into microbial evolution.

Although several investigations studied in depth the eukaryote organisms during the last years, little is known about the biology of microorganisms in cold environments, especially in polar regions. However, this scenario is changing.


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The advent of the genomic era allowed us to investigate intriguing questions on the nature of cold adapted microorganisms with unprecedented precision. In particular, the new high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies have revolutionized the exploration of polar microbiology revealing microbial ecosystems with unexpectedly high levels of diversity and complexity. Consequently, the combination of both culture-dependent and culture-independent techniques has been considered the best approach towards a better understanding of how microorganisms survive and function in such extreme environments.

These multidisciplinary approaches and technologies provide new pathways into a new frontier of research opportunities at the Poles. Nowadays, polar microbiology is a promising field of research that can tell us much about the fundaments of life. The mechanisms by which different microorganisms adapt to the extreme cold environment offer powerful study systems for elucidating the fundamental properties of cellular design and the ways in which evolutionary changes in the cell adapts organisms to their environments.

Previous studies have revealed various adaptations to cold conditions at the molecular and cellular level such as the synthesis of antifreeze proteins and cold-active enzymes or the incorporation of membrane unsaturated fatty acids promoting homeoviscosity. A better understanding of these complex adaptations will be achieved by multidisciplinary analysis encompassing genomics, proteomics, and transcriptomics.

Polar ecosystem | olagynulehyb.gq

Furthermore, microorganisms living in polar regions provide useful models for general questions in ecology and evolutionary biology. Given their relative isolation especially in Antarctica , the reduced complexity of their ecosystems, the relative absence of confounding effects associated with higher plants or animals, and the severe biological constraints imposed by the polar environment.

Another compelling reason to study polar microbial ecosystems is that they are likely to be among the ecosystems most strongly affected by global changes. Polar regions are experiencing the earliest and most pronounced changes from global warming. Recent estimates indicate that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as other parts of the world. The polar amplification of global warming leads to systemic alterations in the regional environment like rapid decline of the sea-ice cover, thawing of the permafrost as well as melting of ice sheets and glaciers.


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  4. These changes may have dramatic impact on the polar microbial ecosystems which are highly sensitive to changes due the severe biological constraints imposed by the polar environment including significant shifts in their abundance, structure and function as well as potential extinction of several species. In addition, warmer conditions may also be more favorable to invasive species brought by natural processes and by the increasing human activity in these regions.

    Polar Regions

    Consequently, these unique microbial ecosystems may now be facing imminent extinction. Indeed, some polar microbial ecosystems appear to be in rapid decline, whereas others are shifting towards new states, with implications for food webs and biogeochemical fluxes. However, the responses of microbial ecosystems to climate change are complex and subject to interactions and feedbacks. For these reasons, further studies are necessary to characterize in more details the impacts of these environmental changes on polar microorganisms at all levels of biological organization i.

    Extreme Environments Laboratory

    The windswept treeless plains of the Arctic tundra sometimes look barren, but they are inhabited by a multitude of plants and animals. Travel south from the Arctic tundra, where temperatures are somewhat less frigid although still really cold , and you are likely to find vast forests of conifer trees in the taiga biome.

    Travel north of the Arctic tundra you will find polar bears and the unique marine life in the Arctic Ocean. In the south polar region , you would find that most of the land, the continent of Antarctica , is covered with a thick layer of ice.

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    You would probably have trouble finding any living things in these ice-covered areas. As a whole, Antarctica has the lowest species diversity of any place on Earth. However, living things inhabit a few areas of the continent. The Antarctic Peninsula, which stretches further north than any other part of the continent, has a diversity of tundra-type species. This Antarctic tundra, like the Arctic tundra, contains no trees or shrubs. Unlike the tundra of the Arctic, there are no naturally occurring land mammals in the Antarctic.

    Most food chains on Earth begin with plants or some other organism that gets their energy from the sun through the process of photosynthesis. Animals called herbivores eat the plants, and then other animals eat the herbivores to make the food chain. Because there is virtually no soil in Antarctica , very few plants can survive there. Yet animals do live in Antarctica including many different species of penguin. So how do they get the food they need?

    The Antarctic food chains are closely tied to the ocean. Almost all animals in Antarctica find their food in the Southern Ocean that surrounds the continent. Marine life in the Southern Ocean is abundant.

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    Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store! The Summer issue of The Earth Scientist , available in our online store , includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming. Many mapmakers do not even recognize it as an ocean.

    Like all types of tundra, this is a very cold and windy You will find the geographic North Pole and the magnetic The soil is frozen, its top surface thawing only during summer, and no trees can grow. Yet plants and animals that are adapted for the harsh South of the Antarctic Circle at It is the coldest, windiest, and driest continent on Earth. The land is barren and mostly covered with a thick sheet of ice. Antarctica is almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle