Bacterial responses to environmental change on the Tibetan Plateau over the past half century


Yongqin Liu, John C. Priscu, Tandong Yao, Trista J. Vick-Majors, Baiqing Xu, Nianzhi Jiao, Pamela Santibanez, Sijun Huang, Ninglian Wang, Mark Greenwood, Alexander B. Michaud, Shichang Kang, Jianjun Wang, Qun Gao, Yunfeng Yang


Environmental Microbiology


Climate change and anthropogenic factors can alter biodiversity and lead to changes in community structure and function. Despite the potential impacts, no long-term records of climatic influences on microbial communities exist. The Tibetan Plateau is a highly sensitive region that is currently undergoing significant alteration resulting from both climate change and increased human activity. Ice cores from glaciers in this region serve as unique natural archives of bacterial abundance and community composition, and contain concomitant records of climate and environmental change. We report high-resolution profiles of bacterial density and community composition over the past half-century in ice cores from three glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau. Statistical analysis showed that the bacterial community composition in the three ice cores converged starting in the 1990s. Changes in bacterial community composition were related to changing precipitation, increasing air temperature and anthropogenic activities in the vicinity of the Plateau. Collectively, our ice core data on bacteria in concert with environmental and anthropogenic proxies indicate that the convergence of bacterial communities deposited on glaciers across a wide geographical area and situated in diverse habitat types was likely induced by climatic and anthropogenic drivers.



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