• neuston;
  • airborne bacteria;
  • high mountain lakes;
  • Betaproteobacteria;
  • actinobacteria;
  • bacterial dispersion


The bacterioneuston (bacteria inhabiting the air–water interface) is poorly characterized and possibly forms a unique community in the aquatic environment. In high mountain lakes, the surface film is subjected to extreme conditions of life, suggesting the development of a specific and adapted bacterioneuston community. We have studied the surface film of a remote high mountain lake in the Pyrenees by cloning the PCR-amplified 16S rRNA gene and comparing with bacteria present in underlying waters (UW), and airborne bacteria from the dust deposited on the top of the snow pack. We did not detect unusual taxa in the neuston but rather very common and widespread bacterial groups. Betaproteobacteria and Actinobacteria accounted for >75% of the community composition. Other minor groups were Gammaproteobacteria (between 8% and 12%), Alphaproteobacteria (between 1% and 5%), and Firmicutes (1%). However, we observed segregated populations in neuston and UW for the different clades within each of the main phylogenetic groups. The soil bacterium Acinetobacter sp. was only detected in the snow–dust sample. Overall, higher similarities were found between bacterioneuston and airborne bacteria than between the former and bacterioplankton. The surface film in high mountain lakes appears as a direct interceptor of airborne bacteria useful for monitoring long-range bacterial dispersion.