Glacial retreat is changing biogeochemical cycling in the Arctic, where glacial runoff contributes iron for oceanic shelf primary production. In Svalbard fjords, we hypothesize that microbes catalyze intense iron and sulfur cycling in low organic matter sediments. This is because low organic matter limits sulfide generation, allowing iron mobility to the water column instead of precipitation as iron monosulfides. Here, we tested this with high-depth-resolution 16S rRNA gene libraries in the upper 20 cm at two sites in Van Keulenfjorden, Svalbard. At the site closer to the glaciers, iron-reducing Desulfuromonadales, iron-oxidizing Gallionella and Mariprofundus, and sulfur-oxidizing Thiotrichales and Epsilonproteobacteria were abundant above 12 cm depth. Below this depth, the relative abundances of sequences for sulfate-reducing Desulfobacteraceae and Desulfobulbaceae increased. At the outer station, the switch from iron-cycling clades to sulfate reducers occurred at shallower depths (∼5 cm), corresponding to higher sulfate reduction rates. Relatively labile organic matter (shown by δ13C and C/N ratios) was more abundant at this outer site and ordination analysis suggested that this affected microbial community structure in surface sediments. Network analysis revealed more correlations between predicted iron- and sulfur-cycling taxa, and with uncultured clades proximal to the glacier. Together, these results suggest that complex microbial communities catalyze redox cycling of iron and sulfur, especially closer to the glacier, where sulfate reduction is limited due to low organic matter availability. Diminished sulfate reduction in upper sediments enables iron to flux into the overlying water, where it may be transported to the shelf.
Two common quantification methods for subseafloor microorganisms are catalyzed reporter deposition fluorescence in situ hybridization (CARD-FISH) and quantitative PCR (qPCR). Using these methods, we quantified Bacteria and Archaea in Baltic Sea basin sediments (IODP Exp. 347) down to 90 mbsf, testing the following hypotheses in an inter-laboratory comparison: 1) proteinase K permeabilization of Archaeal cell walls increases CARD-FISH accuracy, and 2) qPCR varies by more than an order of magnitude between laboratories using similar protocols. CARD-FISH counts did not differ between permeabilization treatments, demonstrating that proteinase K did not increase accuracy of CARD-FISH counts. However, 91% of these counts were below the quantification limit of 1.3 × 107 cells cm−3. For qPCR, data varied between laboratories, but were largely within the same order of magnitude if the same primers were used, with 88% of samples being above the quantification limit. Copy number values were elevated by preparing a sediment slurry before DNA extraction: 3.88 ×106 to 2.34 ×109 16S rRNA gene copies cm−3 vs. 1.39 × 107 to 1.87 × 109 total cells cm−3. By qPCR, Bacteria were more abundant than Archaea, although they usually were within the same order of magnitude. Overall, qPCR is more sensitive than CARD-FISH, but both require optimization to consistently achieve both precision and accuracy.
A genomic reconstruction belonging to the genus Methanosarcina was assembled from metagenomic data from a methane-producing enrichment of Antarctic permafrost. This is the first methanogen genome reported from permafrost of the Dry Valleys and can help shed light on future climate-affected methane dynamics.