Low-Temperature Sulfidic-Ice Microbial Communities, Borup Fiord Pass, Canadian High Arctic.
ABSTRACT: A sulfur-dominated supraglacial spring system found at Borup Fiord Pass (BFP), Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada, is a unique sulfur-on-ice system expressed along the toe of a glacier. BFP has an intermittent flowing, subsurface-derived, glacial spring that creates a large white-yellow icing (aufeis) that extends down-valley. Over field campaigns in 2014, 2016, and 2017, numerous samples were collected and analyzed for both microbial community composition and aqueous geochemistry. Samples were collected from multiple site types: spring discharge fluid, aufeis (spring-derived ice), melt pools with sedimented cryoconite material, and mineral precipitate scrapings, to probe how microbial communities differed between site types in a dynamic freeze/thaw sulfur-rich system. Dissolved sulfate varied between 0.07 and 11.6 mM and was correlated with chloride concentrations, where the fluids were saltiest among spring fluids. The highest sulfate samples exhibited high dissolved sulfide values between 0.22 and 2.25 mM. 16S rRNA gene sequencing from melt pool and aufeis samples from the 2014 campaign were highly abundant in operational taxonomic units (OTUs) closely related to sulfur-oxidizing microorganisms (SOM; Sulfurimonas, Sulfurovum, and Sulfuricurvum). Subsequent sampling 2 weeks later had fewer SOMs and showed an increased abundance of the genus Flavobacterium. Desulfocapsa, an organism that specializes in the disproportionation of inorganic sulfur compounds was also found. Samples from 2016 and 2017 revealed that microorganisms present were highly similar in community composition to 2014 samples, primarily echoed by the continued presence of Flavobacterium sp. Results suggest that while there may be acute events where sulfur cycling organisms dominate, a basal community structure appears to dominate over time and site type. These results further enhance our knowledge of low-temperature sulfur systems on Earth, and help to guide the search for potential life on extraterrestrial worlds, such as Europa, where similar low-temperature sulfur-rich conditions may exist.
Project description:Biological sulfur cycling in polar, low-temperature ecosystems is an understudied phenomenon in part due to difficulty of access and the dynamic nature of glacial environments. One such environment where sulfur cycling is known to play an important role in microbial metabolisms is located at Borup Fiord Pass (BFP) in the Canadian High Arctic. Here, transient springs emerge from ice near the terminus of a glacier, creating a large area of proglacial aufeis (spring-derived ice) that is often covered in bright yellow/white sulfur, sulfate, and carbonate mineral precipitates accompanied by a strong odor of hydrogen sulfide. Metagenomic sequencing of samples from multiple sites and of various sample types across the BFP glacial system produced 31 metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) that were queried for sulfur, nitrogen, and carbon cycling/metabolism genes. An abundance of sulfur cycling genes was widespread across the isolated MAGs and sample metagenomes taxonomically associated with the bacterial classes Alphaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria and Campylobacteria (formerly the Epsilonproteobacteria). This corroborates previous research from BFP implicating Campylobacteria as the primary class responsible for sulfur oxidation; however, data reported here suggested putative sulfur oxidation by organisms in both the alphaproteobacterial and gammaproteobacterial classes that was not predicted by previous work. These findings indicate that in low-temperature, sulfur-based environments, functional redundancy may be a key mechanism that microorganisms use to enable coexistence whenever energy is limited and/or focused by redox chemistry.IMPORTANCE A unique environment at Borup Fiord Pass is characterized by a sulfur-enriched glacial ecosystem in the low-temperature Canadian High Arctic. BFP represents one of the best terrestrial analog sites for studying icy, sulfur-rich worlds outside our own, such as Europa and Mars. The site also allows investigation of sulfur-based microbial metabolisms in cold environments here on Earth. Here, we report whole-genome sequencing data that suggest that sulfur cycling metabolisms at BFP are more widely used across bacterial taxa than predicted. From our analyses, the metabolic capability of sulfur oxidation among multiple community members appears likely due to functional redundancy present in their genomes. Functional redundancy, with respect to sulfur-oxidation at the BFP sulfur-ice environment, may indicate that this dynamic ecosystem hosts microorganisms that are able to use multiple sulfur electron donors alongside other metabolic pathways, including those for carbon and nitrogen.
Project description:The observed changes in physical properties of sea ice such as decreased thickness and increased melt pond cover severely impact the energy budget of Arctic sea ice. Increased light transmission leads to increased deposition of solar energy in the upper ocean and thus plays a crucial role for amount and timing of sea-ice-melt and under-ice primary production. Recent developments in underwater technology provide new opportunities to study light transmission below the largely inaccessible underside of sea ice. We measured spectral under-ice radiance and irradiance using the new Nereid Under-Ice (NUI) underwater robotic vehicle, during a cruise of the R/V Polarstern to 83°N 6°W in the Arctic Ocean in July 2014. NUI is a next generation hybrid remotely operated vehicle (H-ROV) designed for both remotely piloted and autonomous surveys underneath land-fast and moving sea ice. Here we present results from one of the first comprehensive scientific dives of NUI employing its interdisciplinary sensor suite. We combine under-ice optical measurements with three dimensional under-ice topography (multibeam sonar) and aerial images of the surface conditions. We investigate the influence of spatially varying ice-thickness and surface properties on the spatial variability of light transmittance during summer. Our results show that surface properties such as melt ponds dominate the spatial distribution of the under-ice light field on small scales (<1000 m2), while sea ice-thickness is the most important predictor for light transmission on larger scales. In addition, we propose the use of an algorithm to obtain histograms of light transmission from distributions of sea ice thickness and surface albedo.
Project description:Lake and river ice seasonality (dates of ice freeze and breakup) responds sensitively to climatic change and variability. We analyzed climate-related changes using direct human observations of ice freeze dates (1443-2014) for Lake Suwa, Japan, and of ice breakup dates (1693-2013) for Torne River, Finland. We found a rich array of changes in ice seasonality of two inland waters from geographically distant regions: namely a shift towards later ice formation for Suwa and earlier spring melt for Torne, increasing frequencies of years with warm extremes, changing inter-annual variability, waning of dominant inter-decadal quasi-periodic dynamics, and stronger correlations of ice seasonality with atmospheric CO2 concentration and air temperature after the start of the Industrial Revolution. Although local factors, including human population growth, land use change, and water management influence Suwa and Torne, the general patterns of ice seasonality are similar for both systems, suggesting that global processes including climate change and variability are driving the long-term changes in ice seasonality.
Project description:To better understand recent changes of Arctic sea ice thickness and extent, it is important to distinguish between the contributions of winter growth and summer melt to the sea ice mass balance. In this study we present a Lagrangian approach to quantify summer sea ice melt in which multiyear ice (MYI) floes that were surveyed by airborne electromagnetic thickness sounding within Nares Strait during summer were backtracked, using satellite imagery, to a region in close proximity (3-20 km) to spring ice thickness surveys carried out in the Lincoln Sea. Typical modal total MYI thicknesses, including ~0.4-m snow, ranged between 3.9 and 4.7 m in the Lincoln Sea during April. Ice-only modal thicknesses were between 2.2 and 3.0 m in Nares Strait during August. Total thinning including snow and ice was 1.3 ± 0.1 m including 0.4 ± 0.09 m of snow melt and 0.9 ± 0.2 m of ice melt. This translates to a seasonal net heat input of 305 ± 69 MJ/m2 (262 ± 60 MJ/m2 for ice only) and seasonal net heat flux of 57 ± 13 W/m2 (45 ± 10 W/m2 for ice only), which is unlikely to be explained by solar radiation fluxes alone. Furthermore, our approach provides an improvement on traditional ice mass balance buoy estimates because it integrates melt over larger spatial scales, where melt can be highly variable due to differential melt experienced between melt ponds, bare ice, hummocks, and ridges.
Project description:Rates of ice mass loss at the calving margins of tidewater glaciers (frontal ablation rates) are a key uncertainty in sea level rise projections. Measurements are difficult because mass lost is replaced by ice flow at variable rates, and frontal ablation incorporates sub-aerial calving, and submarine melt and calving. Here we derive frontal ablation rates for three dynamically contrasting glaciers in Svalbard from an unusually dense series of satellite images. We combine ocean data, ice-front position and terminus velocity to investigate controls on frontal ablation. We find that frontal ablation is not dependent on ice dynamics, nor reduced by glacier surface freeze-up, but varies strongly with sub-surface water temperature. We conclude that calving proceeds by melt undercutting and ice-front collapse, a process that may dominate frontal ablation where submarine melt can outpace ice flow. Our findings illustrate the potential for deriving simple models of tidewater glacier response to oceanographic forcing.
Project description:Crangonyx islandicus is a groundwater amphipod endemic to Iceland, considered to have survived the Ice Ages in subglacial refugia. Currently the species is found in spring sources in lava fields along the tectonic plate boundary of the country. The discovery of a groundwater species in this inaccessible habitat indicates a hidden ecosystem possibly based on chemoautotrophic microorganisms as primary producers. To explore this spring ecosystem, we assessed its microbial diversity and analysed whether and how the diversity varied between the amphipods and the spring water, and if was dependent on environmental factors and geological settings. Isolated DNA from spring water and from amphipods was analysed using metabarcoding methods, targeting the 16S rRNA gene. Two genera of bacteria, Halomonas and Shewanella were dominating in the amphipod samples in terms of relative abundance, but not in the groundwater samples where Flavobacterium, Pseudomonas and Alkanindiges among others were dominating. The richness of the bacteria taxa in the microbial community of the groundwater spring sources was shaped by pH level and the beta diversity was shaped by geographic locations.
Project description:Glacial ice surfaces represent a seasonally evolving three-dimensional photic zone which accumulates microbial biomass and potentiates positive feedbacks in ice melt. Since viruses are abundant in glacial systems and may exert controls on supraglacial bacterial production, we examined whether changes in resource availability would promote changes in the bacterial community and the dynamics between viruses and bacteria of meltwater from the photic zone of a Svalbard glacier. Our results indicated that, under ambient nutrient conditions, low estimated viral decay rates account for a strong viral control of bacterial productivity, incurring a potent viral shunt of a third of bacterial carbon in the supraglacial microbial loop. Moreover, it appears that virus particles are very stable in supraglacial meltwater, raising the prospect that viruses liberated in melt are viable downstream. However, manipulating resource availability as dissolved organic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous in experimental microcosms demonstrates that the photic zone bacterial communities can escape viral control. This is evidenced by a marked decline in virus-to-bacterium ratio (VBR) concomitant with increased bacterial productivity and number. Pyrosequencing shows a few bacterial taxa, principally Janthinobacterium sp., dominate both the source meltwater and microcosm communities. Combined, our results suggest that viruses maintain high VBR to promote contact with low-density hosts, by the manufacture of robust particles, but that this necessitates a trade-off which limits viral production. Consequently, dominant bacterial taxa appear to access resources to evade viral control. We propose that a delicate interplay of bacterial and viral strategies affects biogeochemical cycling upon glaciers and, ultimately, downstream ecosystems.
Project description:Sea ice microbial communities produce large amounts of the sulfur metabolite dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP), a precursor of the climate cooling gas dimethylsulfide. Despite their importance to the polar sulfur cycle, drivers and metabolic pathways of sea ice DMSP are uncertain. Here we report the first measurements of sea ice DMSP sulfur isotopic composition (34S/32S ratio, ?34S). ?34S values in ice cores from the Ross Sea and Weddell Sea reveal considerable variability across seasons and between ice horizons (from +10.6 to +23.6‰). We discuss how the most extreme ?34S values observed could be related to unique DMSP cycling in the seasonally extreme physiochemical conditions of isolated brine inclusions in winter-spring. Using cell cultures, we show that part of the DMSP ?34S variability could be explained by distinct DMSP metabolism in sea ice microalgae. These findings advance our understanding of the sea ice sulfur cycle and metabolic adaptations of microbes in extreme environments.
Project description:Using CALIPSO-CloudSat-Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System-Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer data set, this study documents the seasonal variation of sea ice, cloud, and atmospheric properties in the Arctic (70°N-82°N) for 2007-2010. A surface-type stratification-consisting Permanent Ocean, Land, Permanent Ice, and Transient Sea Ice-is used to investigate the influence of surface type on low-level Arctic cloud liquid water path (LWP) seasonality. The results show significant variations in the Arctic low-level cloud LWP by surface type linked to differences in thermodynamic state. Subdividing the Transient Ice region (seasonal sea ice zone) by melt/freeze season onset dates reveals a complex influence of sea ice variations on low cloud LWP seasonality. We find that lower tropospheric stability is the primary factor affecting the seasonality of cloud LWP. Our results suggest that variations in sea ice melt/freeze onset have a significant influence on the seasonality of low-level cloud LWP by modulating the lower tropospheric thermal structure and not by modifying the surface evaporation rate in late spring and midsummer. We find no significant dependence of the May low-level cloud LWP peak on the melt/freeze onset dates, whereas and September/October low-level cloud LWP maximum shifts later in the season for earlier melt/later freeze onset regions. The Arctic low cloud LWP seasonality is controlled by several surface-atmosphere interaction processes; the importance of each varies seasonally due to the thermodynamic properties of sea ice. Our results demonstrate that when analyzing Arctic cloud-sea ice interactions, a seasonal perspective is critical.
Project description:Climate change affects the Arctic with regards to permafrost thaw, sea-ice melt, alterations to the freshwater budget and increased export of terrestrial material to the Arctic Ocean. The Fram and Davis Straits represent the major gateways connecting the Arctic and Atlantic. Oceanographic surveys were performed in the Fram and Davis Straits, and on the east Greenland Shelf (EGS), in late summer 2012/2013. Meteoric (fmw), sea-ice melt, Atlantic and Pacific water fractions were determined and the fluorescence properties of dissolved organic matter (FDOM) were characterized. In Fram Strait and EGS, a robust correlation between visible wavelength fluorescence and fmw was apparent, suggesting it as a reliable tracer of polar waters. However, a pattern was observed which linked the organic matter characteristics to the origin of polar waters. At depth in Davis Strait, visible wavelength FDOM was correlated to apparent oxygen utilization (AOU) and traced deep-water DOM turnover. In surface waters FDOM characteristics could distinguish between surface waters from eastern (Atlantic?+?modified polar waters) and western (Canada-basin polar waters) Arctic sectors. The findings highlight the potential of designing in situ multi-channel DOM fluorometers to trace the freshwater origins and decipher water mass mixing dynamics in the region without laborious samples analyses.