22-EPN3-011: Phototrophic Microorganisms in Cold Deserts of Iceland
January 22, 2024

22-EPN3-011: Phototrophic Microorganisms in Cold Deserts of Iceland – Ecology and Diversity of Potential Analogues

Visit by Daniel Remias (University of Salzburg, Austria) and Lenka Procházková (Charles University, Czech Republic) to TA1 – Iceland Field Sites, MATIS
Dates of visit: 07-13 July 2023

Geology and climate of inland regions at Iceland are ideal prerequisites for exploring microbial adaptation to cold and dry habitats. Bare terrestrial ground surfaces and high­altitude melting snowfields represent niches at the edge of life on Earth. Soil samples were harvested at altitudes from almost at sea level up to more than 1000 m. Additionally, red snow caused by cryoflora (snow algae) from permanent snow packs in the Kerlingarfjoll Mountains were collected, and photosynthetic uptake rates were measured in situ with labelled carbon (13C). Red snow was transported to the lab and the pigments extracted and the UV-protecting pigments characterized by HPLC.

The main aim of the project was the molecular characterisation of the phototrophic microbial community for evaluation of abundance and diversity of terrestrial and frozen habitats. Barren, desert­like sites were compared with vegetated ones. Microalgae marker DNA were extracted with dedicated kits for environmental soil samples.

This study aims to shed light on how photoautotrophic microbial life could work at Earth analogues with similar or even worse climatical or soil conditions. Finally, Icelandic terrestrial microalgae will be tested as potential analogues compared to other worlds like Mars or icy moons.

Read the full scientific report with kind permission by Daniel Remias and Lenka Procházková.

Image credit: Desert-like sampling site close to Sandfell Mt. Credit: D Remias.