Antarctic Soil Microbial Communities in a Changing Environment: Their Contributions to the Sustainability of Antarctic Ecosystems and the Bioremediation of Anthropogenic Pollution

Part of the Springer Polar Sciences book series (SPPS)


Antarctica, one of the most harsh and isolated environments on Earth, is concurrently facing the shaping forces of global environmental changes and the impact of human activities in the continent, the latter represented by the operation of scientific stations and touristic expeditions which have significantly expanded over the last decades. Although still largely preserved, different types and levels of contamination of soils, sediments, and coastal waters were detected, being petroleum-derived hydrocarbons the predominant pollutants. Since the environmental protocol to the Antarctic Treaty prohibits the application of site-disruptive cleanup methods and the introduction of foreign species, studying the natural capacity of indigenous microbial communities to degrade pollutants (bioremediation) emerges as a key step in the design of suitable in situ pollution remediation strategies. This chapter describes the interactions of environmental and anthropogenic sources of disturbance to Antarctic ecosystems and the recent advances in our understanding of the ecological contributions of indigenous soil prokaryote communities, delving into their capacity to remediate polluted terrestrial environments. The aims are to highlight the crucial contributions of soil microbes to the functioning and sustainability of Antarctic ecosystems and enrich the body of knowledge supporting the engineering of bioremediation strategies for the restoration of terrestrial environments affected by anthropogenic sources of pollution.


Soil microbial communities Anthropogenic disturbances Chemical contamination Cold-temperature bioremediation  Gene flow 



C.G. Flocco is very thankful to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, supporting the creation of this chapter through a visiting scientist grant, and to the host institution, the Julius Kühn-Institut in Braunschweig, Germany. Our fieldwork at the Antarctic base Carlini was supported by Instituto Antártico Argentino, the University of Buenos Aires, and Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Argentina. Many thanks go to Carlini station and the icebreaker ARA Irizar crews for transportation and logistic support.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Julius Kühn-Institut (JKI), Federal Research Centre for Cultivated PlantsBraunschweigGermany
  2. 2.Instituto Antártico Argentino (IAA)Buenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.Instituto de Nanobiotecnología (NANOBIOTEC)Universidad de Buenos Aires- Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)Buenos AiresArgentina

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