Influence of bedrock mineral composition on microbial diversity in a subglacial environment

Andrew Charles Mitchell, Melissa J. Lafreniere, Mark L. Skidmore, Eric S. Boyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Microorganisms in subglacial environments drive the chemical weathering of bedrock, however, the influence of bedrock mineralogy on the composition and activity of microbial assemblages in such environments is poorly understood. Here, using a combination of in situ mineral incubation and DNA fingerprinting techniques, we demonstrate that pyrite is the dominant mineralogical control on subglacial bacterial community structure and composition. In addition, we show that the abundance of Fe in the incubated minerals influences the development of mineral associated biomass. The ubiquitous nature of pyrite in many common bedrock types and high SO42- concentrations in most glacial meltwaters suggests that pyrite may be a dominant lithogenic control on microbial communities in many subglacial systems. Mineral-based energy may therefore serve a fundamental role in sustaining subglacial microbial populations and enabling their persistence over glacial-interglacial timescales.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855-858
Number of pages5
Issue number8
Early online date20 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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