This review summarizes research concerning Antarctic fungi at the century-old historic huts of the Heroic Period of exploration in the Ross Dependency 1898-1917 and fungi in pristine terrestrial locations. The motivation of the research was initially to identify potential fungal causes of degradation of the historic huts and artifacts. The research was extended to study fungal presence at pristine sites for comparison purposes and to consider the role of fungi in the respective ecosystems. We employed classical microbiology for isolation of viable organisms, and culture-independent DNA analyses. The research provided baseline data on microbial biodiversity. Principal findings were that there is significant overlap of the yeasts and filamentous fungi isolated from the historic sites, soil, and historic-introduced materials (i. e., wood, foodstuffs) and isolated from environmental samples in pristine locations. Aerial spore monitoring confirmed that winter spore counts were high and, in some cases, similar to those found in summer. Microbial diversity varied between the three Ross Island historic sites, and one historic site showed noticeably higher diversity, which led to the conclusion that this is a variable that should not be generalized. Cultured fungi were cold active, and the broader scientific significance of this finding was that climate change (warming) may not adversely affect these fungal species unless they were out-competed by new arrivals or unfavorable changes in ecosystem domination occur.
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Acknowledgments We thank support personnel of Scott Base and McMurdo Station for their assistance in conducting this research in Antarctica, Antarctica New Zealand, National Science Foundation for logistic support, and Nigel Watson and Antarctic Heritage Trust for support and cooperation. Also, thanks to David Harrowfield of Oa-maru and Jackie Aislabie of Landcare Research for helpful discussions and suggestions to the manuscript and to Professor Michael J Danson of University of Bath for helpful discussions of the research. This research is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Grant No. 0537143 and the Vice Chancellor’s Fund of The University of Waikato.
- Climate change