Kohler, Tyler J., et al. Frontiers in Microbiology (2020)


Glacier-fed streams (GFSs) exhibit near-freezing temperatures, variable flows, and often high turbidities. Currently, the rapid shrinkage of mountain glaciers is altering the delivery of meltwater, solutes, and particulate matter to GFSs, with unknown consequences for their ecology. Benthic biofilms dominate microbial life in GFSs, and play a major role in their biogeochemical cycling. Mineralization is likely an important process for microbes to meet elemental budgets in these systems due to commonly oligotrophic conditions, and extracellular enzymes retained within the biofilm enable the degradation of organic matter and acquisition of carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P). The measurement and…

Busi SB, et al. PeerJ (2020)


Glacier-fed streams (GFS) are harsh ecosystems dominated by microbial life organized in benthic biofilms, yet the biodiversity and ecosystem functions provided by these communities remain under-appreciated. To better understand the microbial processes and communities contributing to GFS ecosystems, it is necessary to leverage high throughput sequencing. Low biomass and high inorganic particle load in GFS sediment samples may affect nucleic acid extraction efficiency using extraction methods tailored to other extreme environments such as deep-sea sediments. Here, we benchmarked the utility and efficacy of four extraction protocols, including an up-scaled phenol-chloroform protocol. We found that established protocols for comparable sample types consistently failed to yield sufficient…

Fodelianakis Stilianos, et al. ISME (2021)


Glacier-fed streams (GFSs) are extreme and rapidly vanishing ecosystems, and yet they harbor diverse microbial communities. Although our understanding of the GFS microbiome has recently increased, we do not know which microbial clades are ecologically successful in these ecosystems, nor do we understand potentially underlying mechanisms. Ecologically successful clades should be more prevalent across GFSs compared to other clades, which should be reflected as clade-wise distinctly low phylogenetic turnover. However, methods to assess such patterns are currently missing. Here we developed and applied a novel analytical framework, “phyloscore analysis”, to identify clades with lower spatial phylogenetic turnover than other clades in the sediment microbiome across twenty GFSs in New Zealand. These clades constituted up to 44% and 64% of community α-diversity and abundance, respectively. Furthermore…

Fig. Busi et al., 2021

Busi SB, et al. BIOXRIV (2021)


Microorganisms dominate life in cryospheric ecosystems. In glacier-fed streams (GFSs), ecological windows of opportunities allow complex microbial biofilms to develop and transiently form the basis of the food web, thereby controlling key ecosystem processes. Here, using high-resolution metagenomics, we unravel strategies that allow biofilms to seize this opportunity in an ecosystem otherwise characterized by harsh environmental conditions. We found a diverse microbiome spanning the entire tree of life and including a rich virome. Various and co-existing energy acquisition pathways point to diverse niches and the simultaneous exploitation of available resources, likely fostering the establishment of complex biofilms in GFSs during windows of opportunity. The wide occurrence of rhodopsins across metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs), besides chlorophyll, highlights the role of solar energy capture in these biofilms. Concomitantly…