Fate of glacier surface snow-originating bacteria in the glacier-fed hydrologic continuums

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Department of Biological Sciences


Glaciers represent important biomes of Earth and are recognized as key species pools for downstream aquatic environments. Worldwide, rapidly receding glaciers are driving shifts in hydrology, species distributions and threatening microbial diversity in glacier-fed aquatic ecosystems. However, the impact of glacier surface snow-originating taxa on the microbial diversity in downstream aquatic environments has been little explored. To elucidate the contribution of glacier surface snow-originating taxa to bacterial diversity in downstream aquatic environments, we collected samples from glacier surface snows, downstream streams and lakes along three glacier-fed hydrologic continuums on the Tibetan Plateau. Our results showed that glacier stream acts as recipients and vectors of bacteria originating from the glacier environments. The contributions of glacier surface snow-originating taxa to downstream bacterial communities decrease from the streams to lakes, which was consistently observed in three geographically separated glacier-fed ecosystems. Our results also revealed that some rare snow-originating bacteria can thrive along the hydrologic continuums and become dominant in downstream habitats. Finally, our results indicated that the dispersal patterns of bacterial communities are largely determined by mass effects and increasingly subjected to local sorting of species along the glacier-fed hydrologic continuums. Collectively, this study provides insights into the fate of bacterial assemblages in glacier surface snow following snow melt and how bacterial communities in aquatic environments are affected by the influx of glacier snow-originating bacteria.

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Environmental microbiology