Chapter 13 : Climate Change, Ozone Depletion, and Life at the Poles

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In light of increasing interest in the functioning of extremophilic environments and growing concerns over global warming, this chapter attempts to address some of the factors that influence life in cold polar habitats. The cryobiosphere is especially sensitive to changes in climate and itself plays an important role in gas fluxes and environmental shifts at the poles and, by extension, on the earth as a whole. This sensitivity and its consequent global impact make an understanding of polar bioclimatic interactions critical to predicting future climate change trends. During the 2001 season Warner and Miller collected data on RecA antigen concentrations in marine bacterioplankton near Palmer Station. Although the data were scattered, a direct correlation between an increased ratio of midday-to-evening induction and the extent of the stratospheric ozone depletion was observed. This chapter addresses the mechanisms by which microbes repair UV damage in their most fundamental molecule, the DNA that encodes the proteins and molecules that mediate all their life functions. Many of the hypotheses regarding the effect of global warming at the poles have focused on the high concentration of carbon trapped in the permafrost and the concept that its release will result in massive increases in microbial activity that will produce positive feedback, further exaggerating climate change. Microbial nitrous oxide production appears to be enhanced at higher water-activity concentrations and atmospheric release of nitrogen species with a biological origin from snow has been shown to occur even under conditions of low or absent light without ice-/snowmelt.

Citation: Vrionis H, Whyte L, Warner K, Miller R. 2012. Climate Change, Ozone Depletion, and Life at the Poles, p 265-289. In Miller R, Whyte L (ed), Polar Microbiology: Life in a Deep Freeze. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817183.ch13
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Image of FIGURE 1

Relative concentrations of RecA antigen in marine bacterioplankton in the Gulf of Mexico and Antarctica. The midday (*) and evening (#) peaks are indicated. The 17:00 (evening) reading was normalized to one for comparative purposes (Warner and Miller, unpublished data).

Citation: Vrionis H, Whyte L, Warner K, Miller R. 2012. Climate Change, Ozone Depletion, and Life at the Poles, p 265-289. In Miller R, Whyte L (ed), Polar Microbiology: Life in a Deep Freeze. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817183.ch13
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Image of FIGURE 2

Ratio (RO) of noonday-to-evening RecA induction peaks (see Fig. 1 ) as a function of date. There is a direct correlation of this ratio with the extent of stratospheric ozone (see Color Plate 10). As the hole becomes smaller, this ratio becomes smaller (Warner and Miller, unpublished data).

Citation: Vrionis H, Whyte L, Warner K, Miller R. 2012. Climate Change, Ozone Depletion, and Life at the Poles, p 265-289. In Miller R, Whyte L (ed), Polar Microbiology: Life in a Deep Freeze. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817183.ch13
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