Extremophiles

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 631–642 | Cite as

Microbial abundance and community structure in a melting alpine snowpack

  • Anna Lazzaro
  • Andrea Wismer
  • Martin Schneebeli
  • Isolde Erny
  • Josef Zeyer
Original Paper

Abstract

Snowmelt is a crucial period for alpine soil ecosystems, as it is related to inputs of nutrients, particulate matter and microorganisms to the underlying soil. Although snow-inhabiting microbial communities represent an important inoculum for soils, they have thus far received little attention. The distribution and structure of these microorganisms in the snowpack may be linked to the physical properties of the snowpack at snowmelt. Snow samples were taken from snow profiles at four sites (1930–2519 m a.s.l.) in the catchment of the Tiefengletscher, Canton Uri, Switzerland. Microbial (Archaea, Bacteria and Fungi) communities were investigated through T-RFLP profiling of the 16S and 18S rRNA genes, respectively. In parallel, we assessed physical and chemical parameters relevant to the understanding of melting processes. Along the snow profiles, density increased with depth due to compaction, while other physico-chemical parameters, such as temperature and concentrations of DOC and soluble ions, remained in the same range (e.g. <2 mg DOC L−1, 5–30 μg NH4+-N L−1) in all samples at all sites. Along the snow profiles, no major change was observed either in cell abundance or in bacterial and fungal diversity. No Archaea could be detected in the snow. Microbial communities, however, differed significantly between sites. Our results show that meltwater rearranges soluble ions and microbial communities in the snowpack.

Keywords

Snow bacteria Snow fungi T-RFLP 16S rRNA gene Snow physics 

Supplementary material

792_2015_744_MOESM1_ESM.doc (482 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 482 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Lazzaro
    • 1
  • Andrea Wismer
    • 1
  • Martin Schneebeli
    • 2
  • Isolde Erny
    • 1
  • Josef Zeyer
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant DynamicsETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLFDavosSwitzerland

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