DCO Project Summary

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Project Title
A Cold-Tolerant, Acetogenic, and Lithoautotrophic Microbial Community in a Subglacial Lake
Start DateEnd Date
2011-01-01 2013-12-31
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The east Skaftá lake is one of three perennial lakes maintained by volcanic heat under a 300- to 400-meter-thick ice cap in Iceland. These lakes are permanently in the dark, maintained at 0-4°C by melting ice, and are anoxic and sulfidic (small quantities of oxygen may be introduced by meltwater). Our investigations of the water column of this lake and the neighboring western lake have revealed unusual communities dominated by a few taxa, among them one most closely related to a lithoautotrophic, psychrotolerant homoacetogen. Homoacetogens convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen into acetate (CH3COOH) and compete with hydrogenotrophic methanogens for substrate. Acetogenesis may be a major pathway of carbon into these lakes. The objectives are: (a) measure any spatial structure in the microbial community with depth and location; (b) compare the east and west communities to evaluate the hypothesis that there is exchange between them; and (c) determine whether any lake taxa appear in a sample of water flowing out from underneath the ice cap.

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Reporting Year 2014 Click to expand

  • RY2014-1 - submitted on Aug 31, 2014

    Update Details:

    Low diversity, bacteria-dominated microbial communities are endemic to cold, dark, subglacial lakes in Iceland. These microbes appear to survive based on chemolithoautotrophic physiologies consistent with the geochemical conditions in the lakes and the adjacent basalts (Marteinsson, et al. 2012).


    V. T. Marteinsson, A. Runarsson, A. Stefansson, T. Thorsteinsson, T. Johannesson, S. H. Magnusson, E. Reynisson, B. Einarsson, N. Wade, H. G. Morrison, E. Gaidos, Microbial communities in the subglacial waters of the Vatnajokull ice cap, Iceland. ISME J,  (2012); published online EpubSep 13 (10.1038/ismej.2012.97).

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