Culturable bacteria isolated from seven high-altitude ice cores on the Tibetan Plateau


Microorganisms are the most abundant organisms on Earth, and microbial abundance records preserved in ice cores have been connected to records of environmental change. As an alternative to high resolution abundance records, which can be difficult to recover, we used culture-dependent and culture-independent methods to examine bacteria in glacier ice from the Tibetan Plateau (TP). We recovered a total of 887 bacterial isolates from ice cores of up to 164 m in depth retrieved from seven glaciers, located across the TP. These isolates were related to 53 genera in the Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Proteobacteria, with 13 major genera accounting for 78% of isolates. Most of the genera were common across the geographic region covered by our sampling, but there were differences in the genera recovered from different depths in the ice, with the deepest portions of the ice cores dominated by a single genus (Sporosarcina). Because microorganisms deposited on glaciers must survive atmospheric transport under a range of temperatures, temperature tolerance should be an important survival mechanism. We tested isolate growth across a range of temperatures (0-35 °C), and found psychrotolerance to be common. Together, our results show that ice depth, and by extension age, are characterized by different types of microorganisms, providing new information about microbial records in ice.




Liu, Yongqin, John C. Priscu, Tandong Yao, Trista J. Vick-Majors, Alexander B. Michaud, and Sheng Liang. "Culturable bacteria isolated from seven high-altitude ice cores on the Tibetan Plateau." Journal of Glaciology 65, no. 249 (February 2019): 29-38. DOI:10.1017/jog.2018.86.
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