In this review, we analyze data on the occurrence of fungi in Arctic permafrost of different ages. Antarctic habitats of fungi are beyond the scope of this chapter, because a database of non-lichenized fungi from Antarctica has been created in the United Kingdom ( html#Use; version 2.1.4; February 2007), and lists of fungal species identified in this region have been published (Vishniac 1993; Azmi and Seppelt 1998; Tosi et al. 2002; Onofri et al. 2005; Selbmann et al. 2005; Ruisi et al. 2007), including novel species (McRae et al. 1999; Sonjak 2007), whereas data on fungi in subsurface Antarctic horizons are very rare (Kochkina et al. 2001; Gilichinsky et al. 2007).

Arctic fungi have been the subject of meticulous studies for a long time. Mycologists focus on assembling an inventory, which would cover the taxonomic diversity of fungi inhabiting eternal ice (Gunde-Cimmerman et al. 2003; Sonjak et al. 2006), superficial horizons of Arctic landscapes of various locations (Zabawski 1982; Bab'eva and Sizova 1983; Bergero et al. 1999; Kirtsidely 1999a, b, 2001, 2002; Chernov 2002; Etienne 2002; Callaghan 2005; Kurek et al. 2007), and plant substrates (Karatygin et al. 1999). The mycobiota of Arctic permafrost have been studied over the last decade (Kochkina et al. 2001; Ozerskaya et al. 2004; Gilichinsky et al. 2005; Panikov and Sizova 2007).

Permafrost fungi are studied by culture-dependent and culture-independent methods. The limitations of microbiological techniques are due to the fact that many microorganisms actively developing in nature cannot be cultured in artificial culture media under laboratory conditions. In this context, it remains largely unknown whether the picture derived from experimental studies of the structure of a microbial community is complete, if at all. Nevertheless, the use of microbiological methods makes it possible to successfully characterize permafrost samples and their culturable microbial communities.

Svetlana Ozerskaya

Skryabin Institute of Biochemistry and Physiology of Microorganisms, Russian Academy of Science, 142290, pr Nauki 5, Pushchino, Moscow Region, Russian Federation [email protected]

R. Margesin (ed.) Permafrost Soils, Soil Biology 16,

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-540-69371-0, © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

In addition, such studies may result in the assembly of collections of unique microorganisms, which in turn allows the performance of various screening tests, pertaining to diverse problems and requests of biotechnology. At present, many fungal strains isolated from low-temperature habitats are kept in a number of myco-logical collections (e.g., CBS, ATCC, etc.). There are also specialized collections of such fungi. CCFEE (Culture Collection of Fungi from Extreme Environments) is a specialized mycological collection preserving the biodiversity of Antarctic fungi (Onofri et al. 2005). All the collections mentioned above maintain fungal strains isolated preferentially from Antarctic samples. A specialized collection of fungi isolated largely from Arctic permafrost (600 strains belonging to 112 species of 44 genera) has been assembled for the first time as part of the All-Russian Collection of Microorganisms (VKM). This specialized collection also includes about 80 strains of sterile mycelium, which cannot be identified using cultural and morphological methods; research on their molecular-biological identification is on the way.

The available data on permafrost fungi cover several aspects:

- Number of colony-forming units (CFUs)

- Taxonomic diversity

- Morphological, physiological, and biochemical characteristics of the cultures isolated, which enable the fungi to retain viability or capacity for development under the conditions of permafrost.

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