• Antarctica;
  • biomass indicators;
  • cyanobacteria;
  • carbonate precipitate;
  • hindcasting growth


Perennial microbial mats can be the dominant autotrophic community in Antarctic lakes. Their seasonal growth results in clearly discernible annual growth layering. We examined features of live microbial mats from a range of depths in Lake Hoare, Antarctica, that are likely to be preserved in these layers to determine their potential as proxies of past growth performance. Cyanobacteria dominated the mat for all but the deepest depth sampled. Changes in areal concentrations of phycobilin pigments, organic matter and extracellular polysaccharide and in species composition did not correspond to changes in various water column properties, but showed a linear relationship with irradiance. Carbonate accumulation in the mats correlated with biomass markers and may be inferred as an index of mat performance. We examined the carbonate content of annual layers laid down from 1958–1959 to 1994–1995 in sediment cores from 12 m depth. The carbonate content in the layer showed a significant correlation with the mean summer air temperature. These data suggest a link between air temperature and microbial mat growth performance, and suggest that it is mediated via irradiance. Laminated microbial mats in Antarctic lakes have the potential to act as fine-resolution records of environmental conditions in the recent past, although interpretation is complex.