First evidence of microbial wood degradation in the coastal waters of the Antarctic.

Björdal CG, Dayton PK

Sci Rep 10 (1) 12774 [2020-07-29; online 2020-07-29]

Wood submerged in saline and oxygenated marine waters worldwide is efficiently degraded by crustaceans and molluscs. Nevertheless, in the cold coastal waters of the Antarctic, these degraders seem to be absent and no evidence of other wood-degrading organisms has been reported so far. Here we examine long-term exposed anthropogenic wood material (Douglas Fir) collected at the seafloor close to McMurdo station, Antarctica. We used light and scanning electron microscopy and demonstrate that two types of specialized lignocellulolytic microbes-soft rot fungi and tunnelling bacteria-are active and degrade wood in this extreme environment. Fungal decay dominates and hyphae penetrate the outer 2-4 mm of the wood surface. Decay rates observed are about two orders of magnitude lower than normal. The fungi and bacteria, as well as their respective cavities and tunnels, are slightly smaller than normal, which might represent an adaptation to the extreme cold environment. Our results establish that there is ongoing wood degradation also in the Antarctic, albeit at a vastly reduced rate compared to warmer environments. Historical shipwrecks resting on the seafloor are most likely still in good condition, although surface details such as wood carvings, tool marks, and paint slowly disintegrate due to microbial decay.

Integrated Microscopy Technologies Gothenburg [Service]

PubMed 32728072

DOI 10.1038/s41598-020-68613-y

Crossref 10.1038/s41598-020-68613-y

pmc: PMC7391713
pii: 10.1038/s41598-020-68613-y

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