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The Ecology of Snow and Ice Environments$
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Johanna Laybourn-Parry, Martyn Tranter, and Andrew J. Hodson

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199583072

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199583072.001.0001

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Subglacial environments

Subglacial environments

(p.100) (p.101) Chapter 5 Subglacial environments
The Ecology of Snow and Ice Environments

Johanna Laybourn-Parry

Tranter Martyn

Hodson Andrew J.

Oxford University Press

Subglacial environments that support life include the bases of wet glaciers and the subglacial network of lakes beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. These are dark, often oxygen-limited environments, dominated by heterotrophic and chemotrophic microbial processes. The key to life under glaciers is the presence of water. This chapter describes the types of drainage systems that occur under glaciers and ice sheets, and explores the types of biochemical reactions which microbes undertake in these environments. Knowledge about the communities of Bacteria and Archaea in these environments is growing thanks to molecular biology, but little remains known about their functional dynamics. Blood Falls, the unique outfall from a subglacial lake within the Taylor Glacier in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, is described in detail. Current knowledge of subglacial Lake Vostok (Antarctica) is discussed. There is still much speculation as to potential life in Lake Vostok, with our present knowledge based on an analysis of accretion ice. Since the publication of this volume, an American team has explored subglacial Lake Whillans and has found low concentrations of microbial life. Bacteria are also found within ice (englacial). Most information on englacial microbes is based on isolates from the Greenland Ice Sheet Project.

Keywords:   glaciers, subglacial lakes, englacial microbes, chemotrophs, heterotrophs, bacteria, Blood Falls, Lake Vostok

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