Articles | Volume 9, issue 6
Biogeosciences, 9, 2259–2274, 2012
Biogeosciences, 9, 2259–2274, 2012

Research article 25 Jun 2012

Research article | 25 Jun 2012

Activity and diversity of methane-oxidizing bacteria in glacier forefields on siliceous and calcareous bedrock

P. A. Nauer1, B. Dam2, W. Liesack2, J. Zeyer1, and M. H. Schroth1 P. A. Nauer et al.
  • 1Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2Max-Planck-Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, 35043 Marburg, Germany

Abstract. The global methane (CH4) cycle is largely driven by methanogenic archaea and methane-oxidizing bacteria (MOB), but little is known about their activity and diversity in pioneer ecosystems. We conducted a field survey in forefields of 13 receding Swiss glaciers on both siliceous and calcareous bedrock to investigate and quantify CH4 turnover based on soil-gas CH4 concentration profiles, and to characterize the MOB community by sequencing and terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis of pmoA. Methane turnover was fundamentally different in the two bedrock categories. Of the 36 CH4 concentration profiles from siliceous locations, 11 showed atmospheric CH4 consumption at concentrations of ~1–2 μL L−1 with soil-atmosphere CH4 fluxes of –0.14 to –1.1 mg m−2 d−1. Another 11 profiles showed no apparent activity, while the remaining 14 exhibited slightly increased CH4 concentrations of ~2–10 μL L−1 , most likely due to microsite methanogenesis. In contrast, all profiles from calcareous sites suggested a substantial, yet unknown CH4 source below our sampling zone, with soil-gas CH4 concentrations reaching up to 1400 μL L−1. Remarkably, most soils oxidized ~90 % of the deep-soil CH4, resulting in soil-atmosphere fluxes of 0.12 to 31 mg m−2 d−1. MOB showed limited diversity in both siliceous and calcareous forefields: all identified pmoA sequences formed only 5 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) at the species level and, with one exception, could be assigned to either Methylocystis or the as-yet-uncultivated Upland Soil Cluster γ (USCγ). The latter dominated T-RFLP patterns of all siliceous and most calcareous samples, while Methylocystis dominated in 4 calcareous samples. Members of Upland Soil Cluster α (USCα) were not detected. Apparently, USCγ adapted best to the oligotrophic cold climate conditions at the investigated pioneer sites.

Final-revised paper