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Great Lakes Research Center; Department of Biological Sciences


The Tibetan Plateau harbors the largest number of glaciers outside the polar regions, which are the source of several major rivers in Asia. These glaciers are also major sources of nutrients for downstream ecosystems, while there is a little amount of data available on the nutrient transformation processes on the glacier surface. Here, we monitored the carbon and nitrogen concentration changes in a snowpit following a snowfall in the Dunde Glacier of the Tibetan Plateau. The association of carbon and nitrogen changes with bacterial community dynamics was investigated in the surface and subsurface snow (depth at 0–15 and 15–30 cm, respectively) during a 9 d period. Our results revealed rapid temporal changes in nitrogen (including nitrate and ammonium) and bacterial communities in both surface and subsurface snow. Nitrate and ammonium concentrations increased from 0.44 to 1.15 mg L−1 and 0.18 to 0.24 mg L−1 in the surface snow and decreased from 3.81 to 1.04 and 0.53 to 0.25 mg L−1 in the subsurface snow over time. Therefore, we suggest that the surface snow is not nitrogen-limited, while the subsurface snow is associated with nitrogen consumption processes and is nitrogen-limited. The nitrate concentration co-varied with bacterial diversity, community structure, and the predicted nitrogen fixation and nitrogen assimilation/denitrification-related genes (narG), suggesting nitrogen could mediate bacterial community changes. The nitrogen limitation and enriched denitrification-related genes in subsurface snow suggested stronger environmental and biotic filtering than those in surface snow, which may explain the lower bacterial diversity, more pronounced community temporal changes, and stronger biotic interactions. Collectively, these findings advance our understanding of bacterial community variations and bacterial interactions after snow deposition and provide a possible biological explanation for nitrogen dynamics in snow.

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© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

The Cryosphere

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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