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The Differing Biogeochemical and Microbial Signatures of Glaciers and Rock Glaciers
Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
  • Timothy S. Fegel, Colorado State University
  • Jill S. Baron, United States Geological Survey
  • Andrew G. Fountain, Portland State University
  • Gunnar F. Johnson, Portland State University
  • Ed K. Hall, Colorado State University
Document Type
Publication Date
  • Rock glaciers,
  • Glaciers -- West (U.S.),
  • Microbial diversity,
  • Meltwater -- Microbiology
Glaciers and rock glaciers supply water and bioavailable nutrients to headwater mountain lakes and streams across all regions of the American West. Here we present a comparative study of the metal, nutrient, and microbial characteristics of glacial and rock glacial influence on headwater ecosystems in three mountain ranges of the contiguous U.S.: the Cascade Mountains, Rocky Mountains, and Sierra Nevada. Several meltwater characteristics (water temperature, conductivity, pH, metals, nutrients, complexity of dissolved organic matter (DOM), and bacterial richness and diversity) differed significantly between glacier and rock glacier meltwaters, while other characteristics (Ca2+, Fe3+, SiO2 concentrations, reactive nitrogen, and microbial processing of DOM) showed distinct trends between mountain ranges regardless of meltwater source. Some characteristics were affected both by glacier type and mountain range (e.g., temperature, ammonium (NH4 +) and nitrate (NO3-) concentrations, and bacterial diversity). Due to the ubiquity of rock glaciers and the accelerating loss of the low-latitude glaciers, our results point to the important and changing influence that these frozen features place on headwater ecosystems.

To the best of our knowledge, this work was authored as part of the Contributor's official duties as an Employee of the United States Government and is therefore a work of the United States Government. In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 105, no copyright protection is available for such works under U.S. Law.

Published 2016 by Wiley on behalf of the American Geophysical Union.

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Citation Information
Fegel, T. S., Baron, J. S., Fountain, A. G., Johnson, G. F., & Hall, E. K. (2016). The differing biogeochemical and microbial signatures of glaciers and rock glaciers. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 121(3), 919–932.