In the summer of 2003 and 2004, characterized by a rapid glacier retreat, a stony surface covered by well-structured organic-rich mineral debris was observed very close to the Indren glacier terminus (Monte Rosa Massif, NW Italy, 3100 m ASL), on an area covered by the glacier tongue till the year before. The origin and type of this organic-rich material were investigated, in order to detect their characteristics, potential sources and fate within the foreland system. The deposits were dated using Carbon-14 and analyzed for the chemical characteristics of the organic component, the elemental composition of the mineral fraction and presence of microbial markers. The material, granular and dark in color, had a total organic carbon (TOC) content ranging between 17.4 ± 0.39 and 28.1 ± 0.63 g kg−1 dry weight (dw), significantly higher than the surrounding glacial till (~ 1.4 g kg−1 dw), although only 0.33% of it was in water soluble form. Microbial carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) accounted for 10.6% and 3.13% of TOC and total N, respectively. Dissolved nitrogen (N), mainly present as ammonium, represented 2.40% of the total N. The low aromatic component and large presence of nitrogen (N)-derived compounds suggested that most of the organic carbon (OC) in these organic-rich mineral deposits was derived from microbial cells, although the high average radiocarbon age of about 2900 years may also point to the contribution of aeolian depositions of anthropogenic or natural origin. Elemental composition and the crustal enrichment factor of trace elements in the mineral fraction of the aggregates corroborated the hypothesis that most part of the accumulated material derived from ice meltwater. Some indicators of the colonization of these deposits by microbial communities were also reported, from the abundance of DNA and phylogenetic markers, to the presence of bacterial taxa commonly able to thrive in similar habitats. All these elements suggested that such kind of deposits may have a potential role as energy and nutrient sources in recently deglaciated areas, highlighting the necessity to better understand the processes underlying their formation and their evolution.

Characterization of organic-rich mineral debris revealed by rapid glacier retreat, Indren Glacier, European Alps

Michele Freppaz;Roberta Gorra;Ilaria Mania;Luisella Celi
2021

Abstract

In the summer of 2003 and 2004, characterized by a rapid glacier retreat, a stony surface covered by well-structured organic-rich mineral debris was observed very close to the Indren glacier terminus (Monte Rosa Massif, NW Italy, 3100 m ASL), on an area covered by the glacier tongue till the year before. The origin and type of this organic-rich material were investigated, in order to detect their characteristics, potential sources and fate within the foreland system. The deposits were dated using Carbon-14 and analyzed for the chemical characteristics of the organic component, the elemental composition of the mineral fraction and presence of microbial markers. The material, granular and dark in color, had a total organic carbon (TOC) content ranging between 17.4 ± 0.39 and 28.1 ± 0.63 g kg−1 dry weight (dw), significantly higher than the surrounding glacial till (~ 1.4 g kg−1 dw), although only 0.33% of it was in water soluble form. Microbial carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) accounted for 10.6% and 3.13% of TOC and total N, respectively. Dissolved nitrogen (N), mainly present as ammonium, represented 2.40% of the total N. The low aromatic component and large presence of nitrogen (N)-derived compounds suggested that most of the organic carbon (OC) in these organic-rich mineral deposits was derived from microbial cells, although the high average radiocarbon age of about 2900 years may also point to the contribution of aeolian depositions of anthropogenic or natural origin. Elemental composition and the crustal enrichment factor of trace elements in the mineral fraction of the aggregates corroborated the hypothesis that most part of the accumulated material derived from ice meltwater. Some indicators of the colonization of these deposits by microbial communities were also reported, from the abundance of DNA and phylogenetic markers, to the presence of bacterial taxa commonly able to thrive in similar habitats. All these elements suggested that such kind of deposits may have a potential role as energy and nutrient sources in recently deglaciated areas, highlighting the necessity to better understand the processes underlying their formation and their evolution.
1521
1536
Glacier foreland, Dissolved organic carbon, Organic matter, qPCR, Microbial community, Trace elements
Michele Freppaz, Mark W. Williams, Jacopo Gabrieli, Roberta Gorra, Ilaria Mania, Judith Ascher-Jenull, Markus Egli, Luisella Celi
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2318/1791277
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