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

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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