Biodiv Sci ›› 2013, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (4): 456-467.  DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.12043

Special Issue: 微生物多样性专辑 青藏高原生物多样性与生态安全

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A review of microbial diversity in polar terrestrial environments

Weidong Kong*()   

  1. Key Laboratory of Alpine Ecology and Biodiversity, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101
  • Received:2013-02-16 Accepted:2013-07-15 Online:2013-07-20 Published:2013-07-29
  • Contact: Kong Weidong


Polar regions refer to the areas at high latitudes and altitudes, that are characterized by low temperature and limited nutrients, and are very vulnerable and sensitive to global climate change. They include the Antarctic, the Arctic and the Tibetan Plateau, which is recognized as “the third pole”. The harsh polar environments are inhabited by abundant microbes that shape and maintain ecosystems by driving biogeochemical cycles. This article herein reviews microbial diversity in these polar terrestrial environments, including soils, lakes and glaciers in the Antarctic, the Arctic and the Tibetan Plateau. In the three poles, five major groups of microbes have been detected, e.g. Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Cynobacteria, and Firmicutes. These microbes are salt- and cold-tolerant. Research in polar microbial ecology in China is currently lagging behind developed countries. Priorities should be given to long-term observations on the Tibetan Plateau, which is easily approached. This will facilitate microbial ecology research and expand our understanding of microbial processes and their ecological roles in extreme environments.

Key words: microbial diversity, Antarctic, Arctic, the Tibetan Plateau