Arctic soil study turns up surprising results

Sep 23, 2010

Across the globe, the diversity of plant and animal species generally increases from the North and South Poles towards the Equator but surprisingly that rule isn't true for soil bacteria, according to a new study by Queen's University biology professor Paul Grogan.

"It appears that the rules determining the patterns for plant and animal diversity are different than the rules for bacteria," says Professor Grogan.

The finding is important because one of the goals in ecology is to explain patterns in the distribution of species and understand the biological and that determine why species occur where they do.

Researchers examined the composition and genetic difference of soil from 29 remote arctic locations scattered across Canada, Alaska, Iceland, Greenland and Sweden.

The report also had a second surprising finding. The researchers expected that taken 20 metres apart would be more similar in terms of bacterial diversity than soil samples taken 5,500 kilometres apart because, in theory, plant or animal communities from nearby locations are likely to be more genetically similar than those from distant locations.

Generally, they found that each soil sample contained thousands of bacterial types, about 50 per cent of which were unique to each sample.

"It turns out that there is no similarity pattern in relation to distance at all, even in comparing side-by-side samples with samples taken from either side of a continent - this really amazed me," says Professor Grogan.

Explore further: Genetics reveals where emperor penguins survived the last ice age

More information: The findings have been accepted for publication in the journal Environmental Microbiology.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Some trees 'farm' bacteria to help supply nutrients

Jul 29, 2010

Some trees growing in nutrient-poor forest soil may get what they need by cultivating specific root microbes to create compounds they require. These microbes are exceptionally efficient at turning inorganic minerals into ...

Phoenix Scrapes to Icy Soil in Wonderland

Jun 30, 2008

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander scraped to icy soil in the "Wonderland" area on Thursday, June 26, confirming that surface soil, subsurface soil and icy soil can be sampled at a single trench.

Recommended for you

Antarctica's retreating ice may re-shape Earth

Feb 27, 2015

(AP)—From the ground in this extreme northern part of Antarctica, spectacularly white and blinding ice seems to extend forever. What can't be seen is the battle raging underfoot to re-shape Earth.

The sun has more impact on the climate in cool periods

Feb 27, 2015

The activity of the Sun is an important factor in the complex interaction that controls our climate. New research now shows that the impact of the Sun is not constant over time, but has greater significance ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.