Microbes Active in Colorado Snows Fuel Tundra Ecosystem

Network News Fall 2003, Vol. 16 No. 2

LTER researchers at Niwot Ridge involved in the Microbial Observatories Program have published their results in a recent issue of the journal Science: "Seasonal Dynamics of Previously Unknown Fungal Lineages in Tundra Soils," Christopher W. Schadt, Andrew P. Martin, David A. Lipson, and Steven K. Schmidt Science 2003 September 5; 301: 1359-1361

Populations of fungi blanketed by Colorado’s snows are more active and diverse than previously thought, and are likely responsible for the productivity of the tundra ecosystem they are a part of, according to these findings.

Christopher Schadt, now of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and a former graduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said "the discovery should help scientists gain greater insight into decomposition rates, carbon cycles and the roles of individual fungi in those processes."

Surprisingly, the number of active microorganisms in tundra soils, for at least the top 10 centimeters, (about four inches) peaks when the soils are covered with snow.