Get access

Identification of biomass utilizing bacteria in a carbon-depleted glacier forefield soil by the use of 13C DNA stable isotope probing


For correspondence. E-mail; Tel. (+41) 44 739 25 41; Fax (+41) 44 739 22 15.


As Alpine glaciers are retreating rapidly, bare soils with low organic C and N contents are becoming exposed. Carbon availability is a key factor regulating microbial diversity and ecosystem functioning in these soils. The aim of this study was to investigate how bacterial activity, community structure and composition are influenced by organic carbon availability. Bare soils were supplied with 13C-labelled fungal (Penicillium sp.) and green algal (Chlorella sp.) biomass and the CO2 evolution and its δ13C signature were monitored up to 60 days. These organisms have previously been isolated near the glacier terminus. DNA stable isotope probing followed by T-RFLP profiling and sequencing of 16S rRNA genes was employed to identify consumers able to assimilate carbon from these biomass amendments. Higher respiration and higher bacterial activity indicated a more efficient utilization of algal cells than fungal cells. Flavobacterium sp. predominantly incorporated fungal-derived C, whereas the algal-derived C was mainly incorporated by Acidobacteria and Proteobacteria. This study emphasizes the important role of both fungal and algal biomass in increasing the carbon pool in recently deglaciated bare soils, as only 20% of the added C was respired as CO2, and the rest, we presume, remained in the soil.