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Microb Ecol. 2012 Apr;63(3):552-64. doi: 10.1007/s00248-011-9991-8. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

Bacterial, archaeal and fungal succession in the forefield of a receding glacier.

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Forest Soils and Biogeochemistry, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Z├╝rcherstrasse 111, 8903, Birmensdorf, Switzerland.


Glacier forefield chronosequences, initially composed of barren substrate after glacier retreat, are ideal locations to study primary microbial colonization and succession in a natural environment. We characterized the structure and composition of bacterial, archaeal and fungal communities in exposed rock substrates along the Damma glacier forefield in central Switzerland. Soil samples were taken along the forefield from sites ranging from fine granite sand devoid of vegetation near the glacier terminus to well-developed soils covered with vegetation. The microbial communities were studied with genetic profiling (T-RFLP) and sequencing of clone libraries. According to the T-RFLP profiles, bacteria showed a high Shannon diversity index (H) (ranging from 2.3 to 3.4) with no trend along the forefield. The major bacterial lineages were Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Acidobacteria, Firmicutes and Cyanobacteria. An interesting finding was that Euryarchaeota were predominantly colonizing young soils and Crenarchaeota mainly mature soils. Fungi shifted from an Ascomycota-dominated community in young soils to a more Basidiomycota-dominated community in old soils. Redundancy analysis indicated that base saturation, pH, soil C and N contents and plant coverage, all related to soil age, correlated with the microbial succession along the forefield.

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