Contrasts between the cryoconite and ice-marginal bacterial communities of Svalbard glaciers

  • Arwyn Edwards Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences and Centre for Glaciology, Aberystwyth University
  • Sara M. Rassner Institute of Geographical & Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University
  • Alexandre M. Anesio Bristol Glaciology Centre, School of Geographical Sciences, Bristol University
  • Hilary J. Worgan Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University
  • Tristram D.L. Irvine-Fynn Institute of Geographical & Earth Sciences and Centre for Glaciology, Aberystwyth University
  • Hefin Wyn Williams Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University
  • Birgit Sattler Institute of Ecology, University of Innsbruck
  • Gareth Wyn Griffith Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences Aberystwyth University
Keywords: Cryoconite, glacier, Svalbard, moraines, niche, T-RFLP

Abstract

Cryoconite holes are foci of unusually high microbial diversity and activity on glacier surfaces worldwide, comprising melt-holes formed by the darkening of ice by biogenic granular debris. Despite recent studies linking cryoconite microbial community structure to the functionality of cryoconite habitats, little is known of the processes shaping the cryoconite bacterial community. In particular, the assertions that the community is strongly influenced by aeolian transfer of biota from ice-marginal habitats and the potential for cryoconite microbes to inoculate proglacial habitats are poorly quantified despite their longevity in the literature. Therefore, the bacterial community structures of cryoconite holes on three High-Arctic glaciers were compared to bacterial communities in adjacent moraines and tundra using terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism. Distinct community structures for cryoconite and ice-marginal communities were observed. Only a minority of phylotypes are present in both habitat types, implying that cryoconite habitats comprise distinctive niches for bacterial taxa when compared to ice-marginal habitats. Curiously, phylotype abundance distributions for both cryoconite and icemarginal sites best fit models relating to succession. Our analyses demonstrate clearly that cryoconites have their own, distinct functional microbial communities despite significant inputs of cells from other habitats.

Keywords: Cryoconite; glacier; Svalbard; moraines; niche; T-RFLP

(Published: 22 May 2013)

To access the supplementary material for this article, please see Supplementary Files in the column to the right (under Article Tools).

Citation: Polar Research 2013, 32, 19468, http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/polar.v32i0.19468

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Arwyn Edwards, Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences and Centre for Glaciology, Aberystwyth University
I am currently Lecturer in Biological Sciences (Welsh Medium Delivery) at the Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University. My research interests are primarily polar and alpine microbiology, with an especial focus on the microbial ecology of glacial environments.
Published
2013-05-22
How to Cite
Edwards, A., Rassner, S., Anesio, A., Worgan, H., Irvine-Fynn, T., Williams, H., Sattler, B., & Griffith, G. (2013). Contrasts between the cryoconite and ice-marginal bacterial communities of Svalbard glaciers. Polar Research, 32. https://doi.org/10.3402/polar.v32i0.19468
Section
Research/review articles