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Basal ice microbiology at the margin of the Greenland ice sheet

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Basal ice at the margin of the Greenland ice sheet was studied with respect to its physical characteristics and microbiological community. The basal ice contained high concentrations of dissolved ferrous Fe and must therefore be anoxic. Oxygen consumption experiments indicate that 50% of the oxidation was due to biological activity while the rest could be attributed to chemical processes, most likely weathering reactions with ferrous Fe. At least six different Fe-containing mineral sources were detected in basal ice together with potential bioavailable Fe nanoparticles. An active denitrifier population was identified due to formation of 30N–dinitrogen gas after amendment of anoxic sediment slurries with 15N–NO3–. Sulfate reduction could not be detected. The solid ice facies contained an abundant (∼108cells cm–3) and complex microbial community that harbored representatives of at least eight major phyla within the domain Bacteria. The clone library was dominated by members of the β-subdivision of proteobacteria of which the largest proportion was affiliated to the genus Rhodoferax that comprises facultative aerobic iron reducers. The second most abundant phylum was Bacteroidetes. The solid ice facies had many physical similarities with the overlying debris-rich banded ice facies, indicating that they formed by similar subglacial processes and harbor similar microbial communities. This study extends our knowledge of life in subglacial environments such as beneath ice sheets. GenBank accession numbers: HM439882–HM439950; HQ144215–HQ144221.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2010

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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