Journal- or magazine-article
Fillinger, Lucas and Hürkamp, Kerstin and Stumpp, Christine and Weber, Nina and Forster, Dominik and Hausmann, Bela and Schultz, Lotta and Griebler, Christian
Spatial and Annual Variation in Microbial Abundance, Community Composition, and Diversity Associated With Alpine Surface Snow
Frontiers in Microbiology
Understanding microbial community dynamics in the alpine cryosphere is an important step toward assessing climate change impacts on these fragile ecosystems and meltwater-fed environments downstream. In this study, we analyzed microbial community composition, variation in community alpha and beta diversity, and the number of prokaryotic cells and virus-like particles (VLP) in seasonal snowpack from two consecutive years at three high altitude mountain summits along a longitudinal transect across the European Alps. Numbers of prokaryotic cells and VLP both ranged around 10<sup>4</sup> and 10<sup>5</sup> per mL of snow meltwater on average, with variation generally within one order of magnitude between sites and years. VLP-to-prokaryotic cell ratios spanned two orders of magnitude, with median values close to 1, and little variation between sites and years in the majority of cases. Estimates of microbial community alpha diversity inferred from Hill numbers revealed low contributions of common and abundant microbial taxa to the total taxon richness, and thus low community evenness. Similar to prokaryotic cell and VLP numbers, differences in alpha diversity between years and sites were generally relatively modest. In contrast, community composition displayed strong variation between sites and especially between years. Analyses of taxonomic and phylogenetic community composition showed that differences between sites within years were mainly characterized by changes in abundances of microbial taxa from similar phylogenetic clades, whereas shifts between years were due to significant phylogenetic turnover. Our findings on the spatiotemporal dynamics and magnitude of variation of microbial abundances, community diversity, and composition in surface snow may help define baseline levels to assess future impacts of climate change on the alpine cryosphere.