Microbial community variation in cryoconite granules on Qaanaaq Glacier, NW Greenland

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Abstract

Cryoconite granules are aggregations of microorganisms with mineral particles that form on glacier surfaces. To understand the processes by which the granules develop, this study focused on the altitudinal distribution of the granules and photosynthetic microorganisms on the glacier, bacterial community variation with granules size and environmental factors affecting the growth of the granules. Size-sorted cryoconite granules collected from five different sites on Qaanaaq Glacier were analyzed. C and N contents were significantly higher in large (diameter greater than 250 μm) granules than in smaller (diameter 30–249 μm) granules. Bacterial community structures, based on 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, were different between the smaller and larger granules. The filamentous cyanobacterium Phormidesmis priestleyi was the dominant bacterial species in larger granules. Multivariate analysis suggests that the abundance of mineral particles on the glacier surface is the main factor controlling growth of these cyanobacteria. These results show that the supply of mineral particles on the glacier enhances granule development, that P. priestleyi is likely the key species for primary production and the formation of the granules and that the bacterial community in the granules changes over the course of the granule development.

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