Upstream Freshwater and Terrestrial Sources Are Differentially Reflected in the Bacterial Community Structure along a Small Arctic River and Its Estuary

Aviaja Zenia Edna Lyberth Hauptmann, Thor N Markussen, Marek Stibal, Nikoline S. Olsen, Bo Elberling, Jacob Bælum, Thomas Sicheritz-Pontén, Carsten S. Jacobsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

254 Downloads (Pure)


Glacier melting and altered precipitation patterns influence Arctic freshwater and coastal ecosystems. Arctic rivers are central to Arctic water ecosystems by linking glacier meltwaters and precipitation with the ocean through transport of particulate matter and microorganisms. However, the impact of different water sources on the microbial communities in Arctic rivers and estuaries remains unknown. In this study we used 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing to assess a small river and its estuary on the Disko Island, West Greenland (69°N). Samples were taken in August when there is maximum precipitation and temperatures are high in the Disko Bay area. We describe the bacterial community through a river into the estuary, including communities originating in a glacier and a proglacial lake. Our results show that water from the glacier and lake transports distinct communities into the river in terms of diversity and community composition. Bacteria of terrestrial origin were among the dominating OTUs in the main river, while the glacier and lake supplied the river with water containing fewer terrestrial organisms. Also, more psychrophilic taxa were found in the community supplied by the lake. At the river mouth, the presence of dominant bacterial taxa from the lake and glacier was unnoticeable, but these taxa increased their abundances again further into the estuary. On average 23% of the estuary community consisted of indicator OTUs from different sites along the river. Environmental variables showed only weak correlations with community composition, suggesting that hydrology largely influences the observed patterns.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1474
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licens or are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


  • Greenland
  • Arctic
  • Bacterial community
  • Biodiversity
  • Freshwater network
  • Polar environments

Cite this