Microbial Ecology

, Volume 73, Issue 4, pp 827–837 | Cite as

Diversity and Assembling Processes of Bacterial Communities in Cryoconite Holes of a Karakoram Glacier

  • Roberto Ambrosini
  • Federica Musitelli
  • Federico Navarra
  • Ilario Tagliaferri
  • Isabella Gandolfi
  • Giuseppina Bestetti
  • Christoph Mayer
  • Umberto Minora
  • Roberto Sergio Azzoni
  • Guglielmina Diolaiuti
  • Claudio Smiraglia
  • Andrea Franzetti
Environmental Microbiology


Cryoconite holes are small ponds that form on the surface of glaciers that contain a dark debris, the cryoconite, at the bottom and host active ecological communities. Differences in the structure of bacterial communities have been documented among Arctic and mountain glaciers, and among glaciers in different areas of the world. In this study, we investigated the structure of bacterial communities of cryoconite holes of Baltoro Glacier, a large (62 km in length and 524 km2 of surface) glacier of the Karakoram, by high-throughput sequencing of the V5-V6 hypervariable regions of the 16S rRNA gene. We found that Betaproteobacteria dominated bacterial communities, with large abundance of genera Polaromonas, probably thanks to its highly versatile metabolism, and Limnohabitans, which may have been favoured by the presence of supraglacial lakes in the area where cryoconite holes were sampled. Variation in bacterial communities among different sampling areas of the glacier could be explained by divergent selective processes driven by variation in environmental conditions, particularly pH, which was the only environmental variable that significantly affected the structure of bacterial communities. This variability may be due to both temporal and spatial patterns of variation in environmental conditions.


Bacterial communities Baltoro glacier Cryoconite Cryosphere Dispersal 



Authors thank Science for Life Sequencing facility (Stockholm, Sweden) for sequencing and the Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP, Pakistan) for hosting and supporting our field investigations. Some bioinformatics analyses have been run on PLX server (CINECA, Bologna, Italy).

Compliance with Ethical Standards


This work was partially funded by PAPRIKA project (supported by EvK2CNR Association), by SEED project (funded by the Italian and the Pakistani governments), by the Italian Ministry of Research [PRIN grant 2010AYKTAB to CS] and by the University of Milano-Bicocca (grant 7-19-2001100-2 to RA).

Supplementary material

248_2016_914_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (733 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 733 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberto Ambrosini
    • 1
  • Federica Musitelli
    • 1
  • Federico Navarra
    • 1
  • Ilario Tagliaferri
    • 1
  • Isabella Gandolfi
    • 1
  • Giuseppina Bestetti
    • 1
  • Christoph Mayer
    • 2
  • Umberto Minora
    • 3
  • Roberto Sergio Azzoni
    • 3
  • Guglielmina Diolaiuti
    • 3
  • Claudio Smiraglia
    • 3
  • Andrea Franzetti
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences (DISAT)University of Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly
  2. 2.Bavarian Academy of Sciences and HumanitiesMunichGermany
  3. 3.“A. Desio” Dept. of Earth SciencesUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly

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