2011 Volume 26 Issue 3 Pages 237-247
Microorganisms uplifted during dust storms survive long-range transport in the atmosphere and could colonize high-altitude snow. Bacterial communities in alpine snow on a Mont Blanc glacier, associated with four depositions of Saharan dust during the period 2006-2009, were studied using 16S rRNA gene sequencing and flow cytometry. Also, sand from the Tunisian Sahara, Saharan dust collected in Grenoble and Mont Blanc snow containing no Saharan dust (one sample of each) were analyzed. The bacterial community composition varied significantly in snow containing four dust depositions over a 3-year period. Out of 61 phylotypes recovered from dusty snow, only three phylotypes were detected in more than one sample. Overall, 15 phylotypes were recognized as potential snow colonizers. For snow samples, these phylotypes belonged to Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria and Cyanobacteria, while for Saharan sand/dust samples they belonged to Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Deinococcus-Thermus and Proteobacteria. Thus, regardless of the time-scale, Saharan dust events can bring different microbiota with no common species set to alpine glaciers. This seems to be defined more by event peculiarities and aeolian transport conditions than by the bacterial load from the original dust source.