Subglacial lake 800 meters beneath Antarctic ice sheet holds viable microbial ecosystems. Subglacial lake 800 meters beneath Antarctic ice sheet holds viable microbial ecosystems-
Analysis of the samples taken from subglacial Lake Whillans, the researchers indicate, show that the water contains a diverse microbial community, many members of which can mine rocks for energy and use carbon dioxide as their source of carbon.
Given that more than 400 subglacial lakes and numerous rivers and streams are thought to exist beneath the Antarctic ice sheet, such ecosystems may be widespread and may influence the chemical and biological composition of the Southern Ocean, the vast and biologically productive sea that encircles the continent.
Hidden beneath a half-mile of ice in Antarctica is an unexplored part of our biosphere. This project has provided a glimpse of the nature of microbial life that may lurk under more than 5 million square miles of ice sheet.
(— Brent C. Christner, researcher and lead author of report. )
The realization that a vast aquatic system of rivers and lakes exists beneath the ice in Antarctica has spurred investigations to examine the effect on ice-sheet stability and the habitability of environments at the bed.
A major concern that drove the clean-drilling techniques and protocols is that it is still unclear how interconnected the subglacial aquatic system is. Researchers did not want to risk contaminating the entire system through their sampling of one body of water.