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Pioneering fungi from the Damma glacier forefield in the Swiss Alps can promote granite weathering


Corresponding author: I. Brunner. Tel.:+41 44 739 2284; fax: +41 44 739 2215; e-mail:


Fungi were isolated from fine granitic sediments, which were collected at 15 sampling points within a 20 m × 40 m area in front of the Damma glacier in the central Swiss Alps. From the 45 fungal isolates grown on nutrient-rich agar media at 4 °C, 24 isolates were selected for partial sequencing and identification based on the small subunit ribosomal DNA. Sequencing data revealed that the isolated fungi represented three fungal phyla and 15 species. The weathering potential of 10 of the 15 fungal species was tested with dissolution experiments using powdered granite material (<63 μm). The results showed that the zygomyceteous species Mucor hiemalis, Umbelopsis isabellina and Mortierella alpina dissolved the granite powder most efficiently due to the release of a variety of organic acids, mainly citrate, malate and oxalate. In particular, the high concentrations of Ca, Fe, Mg and Mn in the solutions clustered well with the high amounts of exuded citrate. This is the first report on fungi that were isolated from a non-vegetated glacier forefield in which the fungi’s capabilities to dissolve granite minerals were examined.