Rapid development of anoxic niches in supraglacial ecosystems

E Poniecka, Liz Bagshaw, Martyn Tranter, H. Sass, Christopher J Williamson, Alexandre Anesio

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Microorganisms play a significant role in changing the physical properties of the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Cryoconite holes are a hotspot for this microbial activity, yet little is known about the REDOX conditions that develop within them. In this study, we used oxygenmicroelectrodes and microoptodes to measure for anoxic conditions at the microscale, for the first time revealing a potential niche for anaerobic microorganisms and anaerobic processes. The development of an anoxic zone 2 mm deep within a 6 mm-thick layer of cryoconite sediment was observed within an hour of disturbance, showing rapid acclimation to changing physical conditions. Long-term(half year) incubations of cryoconite material showed a peak of oxygen production and consumption after forty days and reached a low-activity, steady state by day 116, with a persisting anoxic zone beginning between 2 mm and 4 mm deep. Anaerobic microorganisms, which have received little attention to date, should therefore be considered an important component of the cryoconite ecosystem. We discuss the possible dynamics of oxygen concentrations in the supraglacial system and infer that anoxic zones are an important factor in the development of cryoconite sediment communities.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1420859
Number of pages15
JournalArctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
Issue number1
Early online date28 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Cryoconite hole
  • anoxic niches
  • Greenland
  • microbiology
  • microsensors


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  • Black and Bloom

    Tranter, M.


    Project: Research

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