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Influence of ice and snow covers on the UV exposure of terrestrial microbial communities: dosimetric studies

By Charles S. Cockell, Petra Rettberg, Gerda Horneck, David D. Wynn-Williams, Kerstin Scherer and Anton Gugg-Helminger

Abstract

Bacillus subtilis spore biological dosimeters and electronic dosimeters were used to investigate the exposure of terrestrial microbial communities in micro-habitats covered by snow and ice in Antarctica. The melting of snow covers of between 5- and 15-cm thickness, depending on age and heterogeneity, could increase B. subtilis spore inactivation by up to an order of magnitude, a relative increase twice that caused by a 50% ozone depletion. Within the snow-pack at depths of less than similar to3 em snow algae could receive two to three times the DNA-weighted irradiance they would receive on bare ground. At the edge of the snow-pack, warming of low albedo soils resulted in the formation of overhangs that provided transient UV protection to thawed and growing microbial communities on the soils underneath. In shallow aquatic habitats, thin layers of heterogeneous ice of a few millimetres thickness were found to reduce DNA-weighted irradiances by up to 55% compared to full-sky values with equivalent DNA-weighted diffuse attenuation coefficients (K-DNA) of >200 m(-1). A 2-mm snow-encrusted ice cover on a pond was equivalent to 10 cm of ice on a perennially ice covered lake. Ice covers also had the effect of stabilizing the UV exposure, which was often subject to rapid variations of up to 33% of the mean value caused by wind-rippling of the water surface. These data show that changing ice and snow covers cause relative changes in microbial UV exposure at least as great as those caused by changing ozone column abundance

Topics: Glaciology, Biology and Microbiology, Ecology and Environment
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2002
DOI identifier: 10.1016/S1011-1344(02)00327-5
OAI identifier: oai:nora.nerc.ac.uk:13216
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