Environmental Controls on Microbial Abundance and Activity on the Greenland Ice Sheet: A Multivariate Analysis Approach
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- Stibal, M., Telling, J., Cook, J. et al. Microb Ecol (2012) 63: 74. doi:10.1007/s00248-011-9935-3
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Microbes in supraglacial ecosystems have been proposed to be significant contributors to regional and possibly global carbon cycling, and quantifying the biogeochemical cycling of carbon in glacial ecosystems is of great significance for global carbon flow estimations. Here we present data on microbial abundance and productivity, collected along a transect across the ablation zone of the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) in summer 2010. We analyse the relationships between the physical, chemical and biological variables using multivariate statistical analysis. Concentrations of debris-bound nutrients increased with distance from the ice sheet margin, as did both cell numbers and activity rates before reaching a peak (photosynthesis) or a plateau (respiration, abundance) between 10 and 20 km from the margin. The results of productivity measurements suggest an overall net autotrophy on the GrIS and support the proposed role of ice sheet ecosystems in carbon cycling as regional sinks of CO2 and places of production of organic matter that can be a potential source of nutrients for downstream ecosystems. Principal component analysis based on chemical and biological data revealed three clusters of sites, corresponding to three ‘glacier ecological zones’, confirmed by a redundancy analysis (RDA) using physical data as predictors. RDA using data from the largest ‘bare ice zone’ showed that glacier surface slope, a proxy for melt water flow, accounted for most of the variation in the data. Variation in the chemical data was fully explainable by the determined physical variables. Abundance of phototrophic microbes and their proportion in the community were identified as significant controls of the carbon cycling-related microbial processes.