EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Longitudinal patterns of suspended microbial assemblages in glacier-fed streams.

Kristýna Jachnická1, Tyler J. Kohler1,2, Petra Vinšová1, Lukáš Falteisek1, Gabriel Singer3, Tomáš Vrbický4, and Marek Stibal1
Kristýna Jachnická et al.
  • 1Charles University, Faculty of Science, Department of Ecology, Prague, Czechia
  • 2Stream Biofilm and Ecosystem Research Laboratory, School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 3Department of Ecology, University of Innsbruck, Austria
  • 4Institute of Geochemistry, Mineralogy and Mineral Resources, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czechia

Glaciers are considered to be a biome with diverse microbial life, and their meltwaters are highly influential to downstream ecosystems by creating a unique riverine habitat template and providing resources such as nutrients and organic matter. Yet, despite unprecedented rates of glacial retreat globally, not much is known about the fate of microbial cells exported from glaciers, despite their potential to colonize and reside in downstream ecosystems. The influence of glacial meltwater on these downstream ecosystems may persist far downstream, but other sources of nutrients, organic matter, and microbial cells within the hydrological catchment likely gain influence with distance from the glacier. These include soils and thawing permafrost - partly via eroding stream banks - and benthic stream biofilms residing both within and outside the glacial environment (e.g. in tributary streams).

In this work, we ask how suspended microbial assemblages change with increasing distance from the source glacier, especially in terms of their composition and corresponding with abiotic environmental factors. We hypothesize that OTU richness will increase with distance from source glaciers as the importance of other catchment sources increase. Specifically, we expect ‘cryospheric’ OTUs to decrease in relative abundance, and more ‘generalist’ freshwater OTUs to increase. We sampled five glacier-fed streams (3 in the Austrian Alps, 1 in Iceland and 1 in Greenland) from the glacier terminus until the ocean or major riverine outlet. DNA was extracted from samples, and 16s rRNA gene amplicons were sequenced to characterize the assemblage structure. These preliminary observations improve our knowledge of the fate of glacially-exported microbial assemblages, and help us to understand the extent of their potential impact for downstream ecosystems, especially in the current age of deglaciation.

How to cite: Jachnická, K., Kohler, T. J., Vinšová, P., Falteisek, L., Singer, G., Vrbický, T., and Stibal, M.: Longitudinal patterns of suspended microbial assemblages in glacier-fed streams., EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-4281,, 2022.