Aquatic environments in Antarctica have changes over time with a changing climate. Small aquatic zones on the surface of glaciers ablation zones are comparatively constant and represent perhaps the largest volume of freshwater in many catchments. Recent research suggests that they harbour a variety of organisms, and may act as refugia for much of the Antarctic freshwater biota during adverse ... climatic excursions.
The aim of this study was to determine the role of ice-based habitats in conferring resilience. To this end we set out to compare the structure and function of ecosystems in ice-based, periglacial and nearby rock-based aquatic ecosystems to explore the hypothesis that they are linked through time and space and each provides a refuge and source of propagules for the other.
pH, major ions, nutrients, suspended particluates and benthic microbial mats were sampled for at a variety of locations over several seasons.
Samples were collected from three types of aquatic habitats in several sub-regions of the wider McMurdo Sound area of the Ross Sea region. The three types of habitat were supraglacial (cryoconite holes), perigalcial (proglacial ponds) and terrestrial ponds. One location was at ~400 m elevation on the Diamond Glacier (80 S) and two were on the Koettlitz Glacier (78 S), one close to sea level and one at 400 m elevation. The other locations were close to sea level on the McMurdo Ice Shelf at Bratina Island, the mouth of the Miers Valley, Upper and Lower Wright Valley, Hut Point Peninsula, Cape Evans, Cape Royds, and lakes Joyce, Vanda and Hoare. At each site we collected a suite of measurements of water chemistry, biological identity and genomic samples for bacteria and cyanobacteria. The data will be analysed to address our hypotheses regarding diversity and connectivity between aquatic habitats across a range of geographic scales.