Carbon fluxes through bacterial communities on glacier surfaces
Abstract:There is very little information about the activity of microbial communities on the surface of glaciers, though there is an increasing body of evidence to show that they strongly influence the biogeochemistry of these habitats. We measured bacterial abundance and production in cryoconite holes on Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine glaciers in order to estimate the role of heterotrophic bacteria within the carbon budget of glacial ecosystems. Our results demonstrate an active bacterial community on the surface of glaciers with doubling times that vary from a few hours to hundreds of days depending on the glacier and position (water or sediments) within the cryoconite hole. However, bacterial production is only ∼2–3% of the published literature values of community respiration from similar habitats, indicating that other types of microbes (e.g. eukaryotic organisms) may also play a role in the C cycle of glaciers. We estimate that only up to 7% of the organic C in cryoconite sediments is utilized by the heterotrophic bacterial community annually, suggesting that the surface of glaciers can accumulate organic carbon, and that this C may be important for biogeochemical activity downstream to adjacent ecosystems.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: December 1, 2010
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