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AMBIO project

Antarctica phase VI (2006-2010)

AMBIO - Antarctic Microbial Biodiversity: The importance of geographical and ecological factors


AMBIO aims to explore the microbial diversity on the Antarctic continent. Microorganisms dominate most Antarctic ecosystems, they form the basis of the food webs and are the main actors in the biogeochemical cycles. However, little is known about their diversity. We therefore lack the baseline information needed to understand the contribution of various processes responsible for the geographical patterns in microbial diversity and community composition and to monitor possible future changes due the ecosystem changes and/or human introductions.
In the frame of the International Polar Year, AMBIO will take part in the IPY MERGE (# 55) project concerning the microbial and ecological responses to global environmental changes in Polar Regions. It will also participate in the SCAR programme “Evolution and Biodiversity in Antarctica”.


The AMBIO project aims to determine the microbial diversity in Antarctic aquatic ecosystems, using an integrated and standardised analysis.

The specific objectives are:

  • To explore and discover the microbial diversity in wet terrestrial habitats in Sub-Antarctica, maritime and continental Antarctica.
  • To enlarge the database of ribosomal RNA operon sequences of bacteria, cyanobacteria and microalgae through the collection and analysis of new samples.
  • To enlarge the collections of Antarctic bacteria (particularly Proteobacteria and Bacteroidetes), cyanobacteria, green algae and diatoms, with new characterised isolates.
  • To study the community turnover within each taxonomic group among different/comparable habitats along ecological and geographical gradients.
  • To select in each of the taxonomic groups, particular taxa that displays striking distribution patterns (environmental specialisations, potentially endemic or cosmopolitan) for further detailed study (specific genotypic analyses on a large number of varied samples). This approach will enable to better analyse the importance of ecological and historic factors.
  • To identify regions of unique microbial diversity that deserve to be protected.

Complementary resources about this scientific project

Partners and Contact information

Coordinator: Annick Wilmotte
University of Liège
Centre d’Ingénierie des Protéines (CIP)
Institute of Chemistry
Sart Tilman B6
B-4000 Liège
Tel:+32 (0) 4 366 38 56 / 33 87
Fax:+32 (0) 4 366 33 64

Promoter: Wim Vyverman
Gent University
Protistologie en Aquatische Ecologie (PAE)
Krijgslaan 281 S8
B-9000 Gent
Tel:+32 (0)9 264 85 01
Fax:+32 (0)9 264 85 99

Promoter: Anne Willems
Gent University Laboratorium voor Microbiologie (LM-Gent)
K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35
B-9000 Gent
Tél:+32 (0)9 264 51 03
Fax:+32 (0)9 264 50 92

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