Ecology of Soil Microorganisms of Antarctica

  1. J. C. F. Tedrow
  1. William L. Boyd1,
  2. James T. Staley2 and
  3. Josephine W. Boyd3

Published Online: 14 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/AR008p0125

Antarctic Soils and Soil Forming Processes

Antarctic Soils and Soil Forming Processes

How to Cite

Boyd, W. L., Staley, J. T. and Boyd, J. W. (1966) Ecology of Soil Microorganisms of Antarctica, in Antarctic Soils and Soil Forming Processes (ed J. C. F. Tedrow), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/AR008p0125

Author Information

  1. 1

    Department of Pathology and Microbiology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

  2. 2

    Department of Bacteriology, University of California, Davis

  3. 3

    Fort Collins, Colorado

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 14 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1966

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781118655801

Online ISBN: 9781118668719



  • Cape Hallett;
  • Dry-Valley systems;
  • Flora and fauna;
  • Nitrogen metabolism;
  • Psychrophilic microorganism;
  • Ross Sea area;
  • Soil microorganisms;
  • Thermophilic bacteria


Continental Antarctica possesses a characteristic flora and fauna, which varies both qualitatively and quantitatively among the different habitats. Bacteria and other micro-organisms are usually present in numbers far lower than those encountered in temperature regions. In a few areas of the Taylor and Wright dry valleys, no microbes could be detected, either microscopically or culturally. However, in the rookeries of Adélie penguins where organic matter is high and in areas either directly or indirectly contaminated by man, the numbers of bacteria found were within the range of temperate soils. There are a number of aspects of the physical and chemical environment which have a profound effect on growth and metabolism of the soil microflora. These same factors play an important role in limiting the flora to lichens and mosses as the highest type of plants and the growth of animals to no forms higher than insects and related arthropods. Metabolic activity can be demonstrated during the short growing season, although the rate is insignificant when equated to soil fertility and potential plant nitrogen. This activity cannot be ignored, however, for its products are possible food for other members of the food chain of this region.

With activity increasing progressively among the scientific parties since the beginning of the International Geophysical Year of 1957, more and more microbes are being introduced on the continent. Some of these forms die at a rather rapid rate, but other species have been shown to survive over an extended period of time. Therefore, succession among indigenous and exogenous species may take place, resulting in a flora and perhaps even a fauna which may be entirely different from what is now present.