Microbial Ecology

, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 438–447 | Cite as

Bacterial Communities Involved in Soil Formation and Plant Establishment Triggered by Pyrite Bioweathering on Arctic Moraines

  • Francesca Mapelli
  • Ramona Marasco
  • Agostino Rizzi
  • Franco Baldi
  • Stefano Ventura
  • Daniele Daffonchio
  • Sara BorinEmail author
Soil Microbiology


In arctic glacier moraines, bioweathering primed by microbial iron oxidizers creates fertility gradients that accelerate soil development and plant establishment. With the aim of investigating the change of bacterial diversity in a pyrite-weathered gradient, we analyzed the composition of the bacterial communities involved in the process by sequencing 16S rRNA gene libraries from different biological soil crusts (BSC). Bacterial communities in three BSC of different morphology, located within 1 m distance downstream a pyritic conglomerate rock, were significantly diverse. The glacier moraine surrounding the weathered site showed wide phylogenetic diversity and high evenness with 15 represented bacterial classes, dominated by Alphaproteobacteria and pioneer Cyanobacteria colonizers. The bioweathered area showed the lowest diversity indexes and only nine bacterial families, largely dominated by Acidobacteriaceae and Acetobacteraceae typical of acidic environments, in accordance with the low pH of the BSC. In the weathered BSC, iron-oxidizing bacteria were cultivated, with counts decreasing along with the increase of distance from the rock, and nutrient release from the rock was revealed by environmental scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray analyses. The vegetated area showed the presence of Actinomycetales, Verrucomicrobiales, Gemmatimonadales, Burkholderiales, and Rhizobiales, denoting a bacterial community typical of developed soils and indicating that the lithoid substrate of the bare moraine was here subjected to an accelerated colonization, driven by iron-oxidizing activity.


Pyrite Bacterial Community Biological Soil Crust Fertility Gradient Burkholderiales 
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.



The authors thank the Earth and Environment Department of CNR for the use of “Dirigibile Italia” Station in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, and Ev-K2-CNR committee for supporting the project “Study of primary colonisation and soil neogenesis mechanisms in deglaciating environments at high altitude and low latitude.”

Supplementary material

248_2010_9758_MOESM1_ESM.ppt (1.4 mb)
Fig. S1 (PPT 1,454 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesca Mapelli
    • 1
  • Ramona Marasco
    • 1
  • Agostino Rizzi
    • 2
  • Franco Baldi
    • 3
  • Stefano Ventura
    • 4
  • Daniele Daffonchio
    • 1
  • Sara Borin
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Alimentari e MicrobiologicheUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly
  2. 2.Istituto per la Dinamica dei Processi Ambientali, CNRMilanItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Scienze AmbientaliUniversità di Venezia “Ca’ Foscari”VeniceItaly
  4. 4.Istituto per lo Studio degli Ecosistemi, CNRSesto FiorentinoItaly

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