The overall objective of CCAMBIO is to study the diversity, biogeographic zoning, evolutionary history, and genomic make-up of lacustrine microbial mat communities in the Antarctic Realm (AR) in order to assess their resilience and local and regional responses to global change. It will be the first collaborative effort to study microbial communities using state-of-the-art techniques in Antarctic lakes along a wide geographic and climatic gradient. Our approach will contribute to the discovery of novel diversity and elucidate the role of the different foodweb components for ecosystem functioning in Antarctic lakes. The present proposal builds on the extensive expertise and the strong network of international collaborators, obtained within the Belgian Science Policy projects LAQUAN (SPSDII, 2001-2005), AMBIO (SSD, 2007-2011), ANTAR-IMPACT (BELISA, 2007-2009) and BELDIVA (BELISA, 2009-2012). The databases and sample collections developed during these projects will ensure an immediate start of the research activities and a geographic coverage which could not be achieved within a single four-year project.

The specific objectives contribute to the following research priorities:

1. To extend and improve existing sample collections of lacustrine microbial communities by conducting field campaigns to the understudied sub-Antarctic Islands Iles Crozet and South Georgia and the Maritime Antarctic islands (Deception Island).

2. To quantify the degree and nature of microbial bioregionalisation in the AR using in-depth inventories of microbial biodiversity (cyanobacteria, selected groups of bacteria, and protists).

3. To test evolutionary hypotheses on the origin, diversification rate and range dynamics of selected taxa.

4. To study the overall genomic make-up and biochemical properties of a microbial mat community along a depth gradient to assess the contribution of the different taxonomic/functional groups to the functioning of the consortium in response to changes in the light climate.

5. To explore the potential of microorganisms and functional genes/groups as early warning indicators for global change through modelling the distribution of focal taxa and functional groups in response to climate and environmental change.