Controls on the autochthonous production and respiration of organic matter in cryoconite holes on high Arctic glaciers
ABSTRACT There is current debate about whether the balance of photosynthesis and respiration has any impact on the net accumulation of organic matter on glacier surfaces. This study assesses controls on rates of net ecosystem production (NEP), respiration, and photosynthesis in cryoconite holes during the main melt season (June-August 2009) on three valley glaciers in Svalbard. Cryoconite thickness and organic matter content explained 87% of the total variation in rates of respiration (in units of volume), and organic matter (but not sediment depth) was a significant (p < 0.05) control on photosynthesis (by volume). The average rates of respiration and gross photosynthesis within the cryoconite holes were overall closely balanced, ranging from net autotrophic to heterotrophic. Sediment depth explained over half the variation of NEP, with net autotrophic rates typical only in sediment < 3 mm thick. The measured rates of NEP were not sufficient to account for the organic matter which has likely accumulated in the cryoconite on timescales of less than decades, suggesting three alternatives for the source of the organic matter. First, the glacier surface may have received windblown allochthonous organic material from surrounding environments. Second, cryoconite may consist of in-washed autochthonous material from the glacier surface which has comparable organic carbon content. Third, much of the organic matter may have accumulated in the hole during a nascent period, when rates of NEP were much higher. The cycling of autochthonous labile carbon produced by phototrophs may sustain a significant proportion of the total in situ microbial activity within cryoconite holes.
- SourceAvailable from: Jakub Zarsky[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Glaciers and ice sheets are melting in response to climate warming. Whereas the physical behaviour of glaciers has been studied intensively, the biological processes associated with glaciers and ice sheets have received less attention. Nevertheless, field observations and laboratory experiments suggest that biological processes that occur on the surface of glaciers and ice sheets — collectively termed supraglacial environments — can affect the physical behaviour of glaciers by changing surface reflectivity. Furthermore, supraglacial cyanobacteria and algae capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into organic matter. Supraglacial microbes break down this material, together with organic matter transported from further afield, and generate carbon dioxide that is released back into the atmosphere. The balance between these two processes will determine whether a glacier is a net sink or source of carbon dioxide. In general, ice sheet interiors seem to function as sinks, whereas ice sheet edges and small glaciers act as a source. Meltwaters flush microbially modified organic matter and pollutants out of the glacier, with potential consequences for downstream ecosystems. We conclude that microbes living on glaciers and ice sheets are an integral part of both the glacial environment and the Earth's ecosystem.Nature Geoscience 10/2012; 5(11):771-774. · 11.67 Impact Factor
- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: The surfaces of glaciers are extreme ecosystems dominated by microbial communities. Viruses are found in abundance here, with a high frequency of bacteria displaying visible virus infection. In this study, viral and bacterial production was measured in Arctic cryoconite holes to address the control that viruses play in these highly truncated ecosystems. Mean bacterial carbon production in the sediments of cryoconite holes was found to be 57.8 ± 12.9 ng C g −1 dry wt. h −1 , which predicted a mean of 1.89–5.41 × 10 6 cells g −1 dry wt. h −1 based on a range of conversion factors. Relative to this, virus production was found to be high, up to 8.98 × 10 7 virus like particles g −1 dry wt. h −1 were produced, which is comparable to virus production in sediments around the globe. The virus burst size was assessed by transmission electron microscopy and found to be amongst the lowest recorded in the literature (mean 2.4). Hence, to account for the measured virus production, the viral induced bacterial mortality was calculated to be more than capable of accounting for the mortality of all bacterial production. The data presented here, therefore, suggests that viral induced mortality is a dominant process for the release and recycling of carbon and nutrients in supraglacial ecosystems. Content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI. VIBM Virus induced bacterial mortality (VMM ÷ NCP × 100) VLP Virus like particles VMM Virus mediated mortality (VP ÷ B z) VP Virus production VT Virus turnover (VP ÷ VLP)Environmental Research Letters 12/2013; 8:45021-9. · 4.09 Impact Factor
- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Cryoconite holes are ice-bound habitats that can act as refuges for aquatic and terrestrial microorganisms on glacier surfaces. In the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, these holes are often capped by an ice lid that prevents the exchange of material and gases with the surrounding atmosphere and aquatic environment. Diatoms have been documented in cryoconite holes, and recent findings suggest that these habitats may harbour a distinctive diatom flora compared to the surrounding aquatic environments. In this study, we examined diatom community composition in cryoconite holes and environmental correlates across three glaciers in Taylor Valley, Antarctica. The diatom communities were dominated by two genera, Muelleria and Diadesmis, both of which had high viability and could have been seeded from the surrounding ephemeral streams. The location of the cryoconite hole within the valley was a key determinant of community composition. A diatom species richness gradient was observed that corresponded to distance inland from the coast and co-varied with species richness in streams within the same lake basin. Cryoconite holes that were adjacent to streams with higher diversity displayed greater species richness. However, physical factors, such as the ability to withstand freeze-thaw conditions and to colonize coarse sediments, acted as additional selective filters and influenced diatom diversity, viability and community composition.Environmental Research Letters 12/2013; 8(4):5006-. · 4.09 Impact Factor