3 July 2012Dr Alexandre Anesio has been awarded £573,325 together with Dr. Jemma Wadham, Prof. Martyn Tranter, Dr. Joy Singarayer, Prof. Johanna Laybourn-Parry (Geographical Sciences), Dr. Gary Barker and Dr. Marian Yallop (Biological Sciences) to produce a unique database of quantifiable metabolic pathways and biogeochemical processes in Arctic soils, which extend from newly exposed soils after glacial retreat to well-developed organic and vegetated soils. The team also includes Prof. Liane Benning from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds who was awarded another £130,457 to develop a combined field and laboratory framework for the understanding of changes in key geochemical and mineralogical parameters in glacial forefield that lead to the development of pristine soils.
Midtre Lovénbreen glacier and its forefield (Svalbard). This is one of the 2 forefields (the other one is in Greenland) which has been chosen for this project.
When glaciers retreat, their forefields present a unique opportunity to investigate the initial phases of soil formation and microbial succession. Surprisingly, very little is known regarding the genetic and functional diversity of microbes in Arctic habitats. In this project, the composition and the metabolic potential of the entire microbial population will be explored by isolating and characterising their genetic material recovered directly from the environment using a metagenomic approach. The project will combine the capabilities of the LOWTEX/BIOGAS in Geographical Sciences with the Transcriptomic Facilities in Biological Sciences. We predict that genes associated with phototrophic C and N fixation and aerobic C metabolism will be predominant at the initial stages of succession in soil after glacial retreat, while deeper soil samples will provide conditions for anaerobic C and N metabolism to develop, include the production and consumption methane, which is a very powerful greenhouse gas. The metagenomic approach will be further linked to rates of metabolism and geochemical characteristics of soils, many of those factors have strong feedbacks with each other. The project will instigate a step jump in our understanding of metabolic pathways of terrestrial Arctic habitats to improve biogeochemical models and quantification of the full metabolic package during successional events in soils after glacial retreat.