Air sampling in the 'Heroic Era' historic huts on Ross Island, Antarctica confirmed fungal presence, viability and winter survival. Cultivation and consensus sequence-based identification of Cladosporium cladosporioides, Pseudeurotium desertorum, Geomyces sp. and Antarctomyces psychrotrophicus demonstrated that they dominated the air environment within the huts. Cadophora sp. and Thebolus sp. were also isolated from the air and identified by morphological characteristics. Viable fungal colony forming units generally dropped in winter 2007 samplings from levels recorded in summer 2006 but were still substantial and greater than observed in summer 2008 and summer 2009 sampling at some locations. Comparing interior to exterior sampling, at the Hut Point and Cape Evans sites, there were more fungi recovered from the air in the interiors but at Cape Royds location, more fungi were recovered from the outside environment, possibly due to the impact of large amounts of organic material from the nearby Adélie penguin rookery. This research reveals airborne fungal biodiversity in summer and winter and demonstrates spores are widespread particularly in the interiors of the huts. Completed conservation efforts appear to have reduced fungal blooms and spores, which should reduce future adverse impacts to wood, textiles, paper and other artefacts so that this important polar heritage can be preserved.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank David Harrowfield for helpful comments and insights, Nigel Watson, Al Fastier and conservators of the Antarctic Heritage Trust for their support and cooperation during this study, support personnel of Scott Base for their assistance in conducting this research in Antarctica and Antarctica New Zealand for logistic support. This research was supported in part by the 2004 Vice Chancellor Fund of The University of Waikato and by the National Science Foundation Grants 0229570 and 0537143 to R. A. Blanchette. We also sincerely thank Lisa Robson and Joanne Thwaites Kelly, formerly from The University of Waikato and Benjamin Held and Brett Arenz from the University of Minnesota for assistance with sampling in Antarctica and the identification of fungi.
- 'Heroic Era'
- Polar biology