Project

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Quantifying microbial primary production and allochthonous organic carbon input in newly deglaciated land

English title Quantifying microbial primary production and allochthonous organic carbon input in newly deglaciated land
Applicant Frey Beat
Number 138321
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Swiss Federal Research Inst. WSL Direktion
Institution of higher education Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research - WSL
Main discipline Ecology
Start/End 01.04.2012 - 31.03.2015
Approved amount 254'682.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Ecology
Pedology
Environmental Research

Keywords (8)

Global warming; Glacier retreat; Soil formation; Microbial communities; Sequencing; Genetic profiling; Carbon; 13 C stable isotope probing

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
The majority of Swiss glaciers are currently receding as a consequence of global warming. Before the initiation of primary succession in the botanical sense on newly deglaciated land, there is a primary microbial succession. Organic C derived from both local (autochthonous) and distant (allochthonous) sources, as a component of the wind-borne debris, is crucial to fuel primary mineral colonizers. Photoautotrophs may represent an important source of new C, which may partly sustain heterotrophic communities. Quantifying C pools and fluxes in newly deglaciated land and glacier surfaces at present is therefore of great significance for regional, and potentially global, C budgets and predicting future change.

The goals of the proposed project are threefold: (1) to characterize the structure and diversity of photoautotrophic microorganisms in newly exposed rock substrates; (2) to estimate the relative magnitudes of autochthonous and allochthonous carbon sources, and (3) to examine whether heterotrophic mineral colonizers acquire C by utilizing photoautotrophic-derived or allochthonous C sources.

The study site of the proposed project will be the forefield of the Damma glacier. First, genetic profiling analyses of DNA directly extracted from barren ground together with phylogenetic identification will be applied to characterize the structure and composition of photoautotrophic microorganisms. We will test whether abundance and diversity differ between the extreme points (microclimatic effects) or with distance from the glacier. Second, we will estimate the magnitudes of autochthonous primary production and allochthonous organic carbon input in newly deglaciated land. Third, in order to evaluate the C utilization of heterotrophic microbes, a 13C-labelling experiment with different carbon sources will be performed. In order to follow the fate of 13C-labelled OM, 13C-assimilating heterotrophic microbes will be identified by 13C-PLFA GC-MS and 13C SIP .

This project brings completely novel insights into microbial primary production and community respiration in newly deglaciated land. Newly deglaciated land has the potential to play a significant role in regional, and possibly global, carbon budgets by means of primary production and respiration. Such information has never been gained before in temperate Alpine glacier forefields, although the combined action of autotrophic producers and heterotrophic consumers are crucial for the build-up of organic matter in pioneering ecosystem.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Name Institute

Publications

Publication
Assimilation of microbial and plant carbon by active prokaryotic and fungal populations in glacial forefields
Rime Thomas, Hartmann Martin, Stierli Beat, Anesio Alexandre, Frey Beat (2016), Assimilation of microbial and plant carbon by active prokaryotic and fungal populations in glacial forefields, in Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 98, 30-41.
Vertical distribution of the soil microbiota along a successional gradient in a glacier forefield
Rime Thomas, Hartmann Martin, Brunner Ivano, Widmer Franco, Zeyer Josef, Frey Beat (2015), Vertical distribution of the soil microbiota along a successional gradient in a glacier forefield, in Molecular Ecology, 24, 1091-1108.
Wie das Leben an Boden gewinnt. - Comment la vie gagne-t-elle du terrain?
Rime Thomas, Frey Beat (2015), Wie das Leben an Boden gewinnt. - Comment la vie gagne-t-elle du terrain?, in Geopanorama, 3, 5-11.
Identification of biomass utilizing bacteria in a carbon-depleted glacier forefield soil by the use of 13C DNA stable isotope probing
Zumsteg Anita, Schmutz Stefan, Frey Beat (2013), Identification of biomass utilizing bacteria in a carbon-depleted glacier forefield soil by the use of 13C DNA stable isotope probing, in Environmental Microbiology Reports , 5, 424-437.
Molecular characterization of phototrophic microorganisms in the forefield of a receding glacier in the Swiss Alps
Frey Beat, Bühler Lukas, Schmutz Stefan, Zumsteg Anita, Furrer Gerhard (2013), Molecular characterization of phototrophic microorganisms in the forefield of a receding glacier in the Swiss Alps, in Environmental Research Letters , 8, 015033.
Microbial diversity in European alpine permafrost and active layers
Frey Beat, Rime Thomas, Phillips Marcia, Stierli Beat, Haydas Irka, Widmer Franco, Hartmann Martin, Microbial diversity in European alpine permafrost and active layers, in FEMS Microbiol. Ecol, 92(3).
Potential sources of microbial colonizers in an initial soil ecosystem after retreat of an alpine glacier
Rime Thomas, Hartmann Martin, Frey Beat, Potential sources of microbial colonizers in an initial soil ecosystem after retreat of an alpine glacier, in The ISME Journal.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
PD Dr. Stefano Bernasconi, Geological Institute, ETH Zürich Switzerland (Europe)
- Research Infrastructure
Prof. Dr. E. Baath, Microbial Ecology, Lund University Sweden (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
Dr. Birgit Sattler, Institute for Ecology, University Innsbruck Austria (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Dr. J. Zeyer, Department of Environmental Sciences, ETH Zurich Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
PD Dr. H. Brandl, Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Sciences, University Zurich Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Dr. Gerhard Furrer, Department of Environmental Sciences, ETH Zürich Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Dr. Alexandre Anesio, University of Bristol Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
7th IBP PhD congress Individual talk High-resolution characterization of the Damma glacier microbiota 10.04.2015 Zürich, Switzerland Rime Thomas; Frey Beat;
First Global Soil Biodiversity Conference Poster Microbial colonizers of barren soils after retreat of the Damma glacier (Switzerland) 02.12.2014 Dijon, France Frey Beat;
15th International Symposium on Microbial Ecology (ISME15) Poster Potential microbial colonization of barren soils after retreat of the Damma glacier (Switzerland), 08.09.2014 Seoul, Korean Republic (South Korea) Frey Beat; Rime Thomas;
6th IBP PhD congress Poster Microbial colonization of newly uncovered soils after retreat of the Damma glacier: Where do the pioneer microorganisms come from ? 25.04.2014 Zürich, Switzerland Frey Beat; Rime Thomas;
Zürich Mycology Symposium Individual talk Pyrosequencing-based assessment of the fungal communities in the cryosphere and soil depths of the Damma glacier 31.01.2014 Zürich, Switzerland Frey Beat; Rime Thomas;
5th Polar and Alpine Microbiology Conference (PAM5) Talk given at a conference Pyrosequencing-based assessment of the fungal communities in the cryosphere and soil depths of the Damma glacier 09.09.2013 Big Sky, United States of America Rime Thomas; Frey Beat;
5th IBP PhD congress Poster Pyrosequencing-based assessment of microbial communities in snow, ice sediments and various depths along the Damma soil chronosequence 05.04.2013 Zürich, Switzerland Rime Thomas; Frey Beat;
Swiss Microbial Ecology Meeting Individual talk Pyrosequencing-based assessment of the microbial communities in the cryosphere and soil depths of the Damma glacier 04.02.2013 Murten, Switzerland Rime Thomas; Frey Beat;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Eine Gletschermikrobe mag es eiskalt Der Bund German-speaking Switzerland 2016
Media relations: print media, online media Eine Schatzkammer auf dem Engadiner Schafberg Tages Anzeiger German-speaking Switzerland 2016
Media relations: print media, online media Bakterien lassen Steinwüsten grünen und blühen Baublatt German-speaking Switzerland 2015
Media relations: print media, online media Bakterien verwandeln Steinwüsten in blühende Natur/Comment les bactéries transforment des déserts ro WSL News und Medien German-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland 2015
Media relations: radio, television Bodenforscher finden Mikroorganismen in Gletscher SRF1, Tagesschau German-speaking Switzerland 2015
Media relations: print media, online media Das Eis geht, das Leben kommt Basler Zeitung German-speaking Switzerland 2015
Media relations: print media, online media Das Leben nach dem Eis Südostschweiz German-speaking Switzerland 2015
Media relations: radio, television Die Steinwüste lebt Nano 3 SAT German-speaking Switzerland 2015
Media relations: print media, online media Gletscher geht - Leben kommt Schweizer Bauer German-speaking Switzerland 2015
Media relations: print media, online media La vie apres le glacier Le Temps Western Switzerland 2015
Media relations: print media, online media Nach dem Gletscherschwund kommen die Mikroben Tages Anzeiger German-speaking Switzerland 2015
Media relations: print media, online media So beginnt das Leben ohne Eis St.Galler Tagblatt German-speaking Switzerland 2015
Media relations: print media, online media Un glacier alpin pour laboratoire La Liberte Western Switzerland 2015

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
149507 Effect of drought and irrigation on the roots and the root decomposition of Scots pine 01.02.2014 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

BackgroundThe majority of Swiss glaciers are currently receding as a consequence of global warming. Before the initiation of primary succession in the botanical sense on newly deglaciated land, there is a primary microbial succession. Organic C derived from both local (autochthonous) and distant (allochthonous) sources, as a component of the wind-borne debris, is crucial to fuel primary mineral colonizers. Bacterial growth rates in the Damma glacier forefield, however, seem to be universally C limited (Göransson et al. 2011). Photoautotrophs may represent an important source of new C, which may partly sustain heterotrophic communities. Whether heterotrophic microbes benefit from modern or allochthonous C sources has not yet been elucidated in the Damma glacier forefield. The relative magnitudes of the different C sources still needs to be investigated. Quantifying C pools and fluxes in newly deglaciated land and glacier surfaces at present is therefore of great significance for regional, and potentially global, C budgets and predicting future change (Stibal et al. 2008).Working hypotheses:H1: Active photoautotrophic microorganisms are abundant on newly deglaciated landH2: Microbial primary production is significant compared to the allochthonous organic matterH3: Heterotrophic microbes benefit from modern (photoautotrophic fixed CO2) carbonSpecific aims:The goals of the proposed project are threefold: (1) to characterize the structure and diversity of photoautotrophic microorganisms in newly exposed rock substrates; (2) to estimate the relative magnitudes of autochthonous and allochthonous carbon sources, and (3) to examine whether heterotrophic mineral colonizers acquire C by utilizing photoautotrophic-derived or allochthonous C sources.Experimental design and methods:The study site of the proposed project will be the forefield of the Damma glacier (Frey et al. 2010a). A sampling grid consisting of 48 sampling points will be established. The grid lays between two contrasting border moraines representing the extreme points within newly deglaciated land starting at the top of glacier and ending 40 meters away from the glacier tongue where the first plants had been established. First, genetic profiling analyses of DNA directly extracted from barren ground together with phylogenetic identification using SSU rRNA gene sequences and ITS libraries will be applied to characterize the structure and composition of photoautotrophic microorganisms. We will test whether abundance and diversity differ between the extreme points (microclimatic effects) or with distance from the glacier. Second, we will estimate the magnitudes of autochthonous primary production and allochthonous organic carbon input in newly deglaciated land. The comparison of microbial C production and/ or community respiration with values of in situ rates of primary production will allow to elucidate whether that there is the potential for newly deglaciated land to be net autotrophic or net heterotrophic. Third, in order to evaluate the C utilization of heterotrophic microbes, a 13C-labelling field experiment with different carbon sources will be performed. Mineral colonizers will be exposed to 13C-labelled OM and the uptake and incorporation of the label into microbes will be determined. In order to follow the fate of 13C-labelled OM, 13C-assimilating heterotrophic microbes will be identified by 13C-PLFA GC-MS. Expected value of the proposed projectThis project brings completely novel insights into microbial primary production and community respiration in newly deglaciated land. We will assess for the first time the role of primary mineral colonizers within the carbon flow and outline the general importance of photoautotrophs. Newly deglaciated land has the potential to play a significant role in regional, and possibly global, carbon budgets by means of primary production and respiration. Such information has, however, never been gained before in temperate Alpine glacier forefields, although the combined action of autotrophic producers and heterotrophic consumers are crucial for the build-up of organic matter in pioneering ecosystem.
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