Isolation of oligotrophic yeasts from supraglacial environments of different altitude on the Gulkana Glacier (Alaska)


Correspondence: Dr Jun Uetake, National Institute of Polar Research, C306 10-3 Midoricho, Tachikawa, Tokyo 190-8518, Japan. Tel.: +81 42 512 0768; fax: +81 42 528 3492; e-mail:


Psychrophilic yeasts have been isolated from supra- and subglacial ice at many sites worldwide. To understand the ecology of psychrophilic yeasts on glaciers, we focused on their adaptation to wide range of nutrient concentrations and their distribution with altitude on the Gulkana Glacier in Alaska. We found various culturable psychrophilic yeasts on the ice surfaces of the glacier, and 11 species were isolated with incubation at 4 °C in four different dilutions of agar medium. Some of our isolated species (Rhodotorula psychrophenolica, Rhodotorula aff. psychrophenolica, Rhodotorula glacialis, and Basidiomycota sp. 1) can grow on the low dissolved organic matter (DOC) concentrations medium (7.6 mg L−1) which is close to the typical level of supraglacial melt water, suggesting that these species can inhabit in any supraglacial meltwater. Otherwise, most of other species were isolated only from higher DOC concentration medium (183 mg L−1–18.3 g L−1), suggesting that these are inhabitant around the cryoconite, because DOC concentrations in melted surface-ice contained cryoconite is much higher than in melted water. Similarity of altitudinal distribution between culturable yeast and algal biomass suggests that the ecological role played by the cold-adapted yeasts is as organic matter decomposers and nutrient cyclers in glacier ecosystem.