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Keywords:

  • high arctic glacier;
  • supraglacial melt water;
  • proglacial lakes;
  • bacterial production;
  • denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis

Abstract

Bacterial production in glacial runoff and aquatic habitats along a c. 500 m transect from the ablation area of a Svalbard glacier (Midre Lovénbreen, 79°N, 12°E) down to a series of proglacial lakes in its forefield were assessed. In addition, a series of in situ experiments were conducted to test how different nutrient sources (glacial flour and dissolved organic matter derived from goose faeces) and temperature affect bacterial abundance and production in these ecosystems. Bacterial abundance and production increased significantly along this transect and reached a maximum in the proglacial lakes. Bacterial diversity profiles as assessed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis indicated that communities in glacial runoff were different from those in proglacial lakes. Heterotrophic bacterial production was mainly controlled by temperature and phosphorus limitation. Addition of both glacial flour and dissolved organic matter derived from goose faeces stimulated bacterial production in those lakes. The results suggest that glacial runoff sustains an active bacterial community which is further stimulated in proglacial lakes by higher temperatures and nutrient inputs from bird faeces. Thus, as in maritime temperate and Antarctic settings, bacterial communities developing in the recently deglaciated terrain of Svalbard receive important inputs of nutrients via faunal transfers from adjacent ecosystems.