A novel analytical framework is shedding light on hidden microbial life in glacier-fed streams

September 17, 2021

NOMIS researcher Tom Battin and colleagues have shed new light on the hidden microbial life in glacier-fed streams. They have developed a novel analytical framework to screen the microbiome in these ecosystems for individual microbes that are under high selective pressure.

Tom J. Battin

This much-needed analytical tool, designed by Dr. Fodelianakis and Dr. Washburne, enabled the scientists to shift microbiome research to the next level, where the identity of key microbial players becomes unveiled. This game changer has enabled the researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), in concert with their colleagues in the USA and Luxembourg, to understand key ecological and evolutionary mechanisms that shape the biofilm mode of life in glacier-fed streams. They found an astonishing level of microdiversity within the ice-cold microbiome, which suggests that certain microbial groups with common evolutionary history are particularly well adapted to the environment that makes glacier-fed streams so extreme. Evolution acts within these groups at a very fine level—potentially constrained by the environment. This hitherto unknown microdiversity is now threatened as glaciers shrink, with yet unknown consequences for the functioning of these streams that drain the roof of our planet.

Read The ISME Journal article: Microdiversity characterizes prevalent phylogenetic clades in the glacier-fed stream microbiome