Supraglacial bacterial community structures vary across the Greenland ice sheet

Karen A. Cameron, Marek Stibal, Jakub D. Zarsky, Erkin Gözdereliler, Morten Schostag, Carsten S. Jacobsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


The composition and spatial variability of microbial communities that reside within the extensive (>200 000 km2) biologically active area encompassing the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) is hypothesized to be variable. We examined bacterial communities from cryoconite debris and surface ice across the GrIS, using sequence analysis and quantitative PCR of 16S rRNA genes from co-extracted DNA and RNA. Communities were found to differ across the ice sheet, with 82.8% of the total calculated variation attributed to spatial distribution on a scale of tens of kilometers separation. Amplicons related to Sphingobacteriaceae, Pseudanabaenaceae and WPS-2 accounted for the greatest portion of calculated dissimilarities. The bacterial communities of ice and cryoconite were moderately similar (global R = 0.360, P = 0.002) and the sampled surface type (ice versus cryoconite) did not contribute heavily towards community dissimilarities (2.3% of total variability calculated). The majority of dissimilarities found between cryoconite 16S rRNA gene amplicons from DNA and RNA was calculated to be the result of changes in three taxa, Pseudanabaenaceae, Sphingobacteriaceae and WPS-2, which together contributed towards 80.8 ± 12.6% of dissimilarities between samples. Bacterial communities across the GrIS are spatially variable active communities that are likely influenced by localized biological inputs and physicochemical conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfiv164
Number of pages11
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


  • Bacteria
  • Biogeography
  • Cryoconite
  • Diversity
  • Greenland
  • Ice

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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