Little is known about fungal diversity in extremely cold regions. Low temperatures induce the formation of ice crystals and therefore also the creation of low water activity (a(w)). These are the dominant factors in external chemistry that influence microbial biota in cold regions. Therefore, we have used selective low water activity media plus low incubation temperatures for the isolation of fungi from an Arctic environment. In comparison with the highest values of colony forming units (CFU) obtained on mesophilic media, considerably higher fungal CFU per litre of water were detected on low a, media, ranging from 1000 to 3000 l(-1) in seawater, 6000 to 7000 l(-1) in melted sea ice and up to 13,000 l(-1) in melted glacier ice. The dominant taxa were ascomycetous and basidiomycetous yeasts, melanized fungi, mainly represented by the genera Cladosporium and Aureobasidium plus different species of the genus Penicillium. Preliminary taxonomic analyses revealed several new species and varieties. Further characterisations are needed to determine whether this diversity is due to geographic isolation, ecological conditions or independent evolutionary origin.
Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, 2003, Vol 28, Issue 28-32, p. 1273-1278