Microbial Ecology

, 52:644 | Cite as

Microbial Communities on Glacier Surfaces in Svalbard: Impact of Physical and Chemical Properties on Abundance and Structure of Cyanobacteria and Algae

  • Marek Stibal
  • Marie Šabacká
  • Klára Kaštovská


Microbial communities occurring in three types of supraglacial habitats—cryoconite holes, medial moraines, and supraglacial kames—at several glaciers in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard were investigated. Abundance, biovolume, and community structure were evaluated by using epifluorescence microscopy and culturing methods. Particular emphasis was laid on distinctions in the chemical and physical properties of the supraglacial habitats and their relation to the microbial communities, and quantitative multivariate analyses were used to assess potential relationships. Varying pH (4.8 in cryoconite; 8.5 in a moraine) and texture (the proportion of coarse fraction 2% of dry weight in cryoconite; 99% dw in a kame) were found, and rather low concentrations of organic matter (0.3% of dry weight in a kame; 22% dw in cryoconite) and nutrients (nitrogen up to 0.4% dw, phosphorus up to 0.8% dw) were determined in the samples. In cryoconite sediment, the highest numbers of bacteria, cyanobacteria, and algae were found, whereas relatively low microbial abundances were recorded in moraines and kames. Cyanobacterial cells were significantly more abundant than microalgal ones in cryoconite and supraglacial kames. Different species of the cyanobacterial genus Leptolyngbya were by far the most represented in all samples, and cyanobacteria of the genera Phormidium and Nostoc prevailed in cultures isolated from cryoconite samples. These species are considered opportunistic organisms with wide ecological valency and strong colonizing potential rather than glacial specialists. Statistical analyses suggest that fine sediment with higher water content is the most suitable condition for bacteria, cyanobacteria, and algae. Also, a positive impact of lower pH on microbial growth was found. The fate of a microbial cell deposited on the glacier surface seems therefore predetermined by the physical and chemical factors such as texture of sediment and water content rather than spatial factors or the origin of sediment.


Microbial Community Microalgae Microbial Abundance Lateral Moraine Glacier Surface 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by the grants GA ASCR B6005409 and AVOZ 60050516. Delegation Fund of the Faculty of Biological Sciences provided financial support for M.S. and M.Š. Barbora Černá performed the bacterial counts. Josef Řehák and Stanislav Řehák are thanked for their help in the field and for valuable comments on glacier hydrology. University of Wrocław kindly enabled us to stay at the Baranowski station. Three anonymous reviewers are thanked for their valuable comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marek Stibal
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marie Šabacká
    • 1
    • 2
  • Klára Kaštovská
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of Biological SciencesUniversity of South BohemiaČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  2. 2.Institute of BotanyAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicTřeboňCzech Republic

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