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Impact of River Channel Lateral Migration on Microbial Communities across a Discontinuous Permafrost Floodplain

Douglas, Madison M. and Lingappa, Usha F. and Lamb, Michael P. and Rowland, Joel C. and West, A. Joshua and Li, Gen and Kemeny, Preston C. and Chadwick, Austin J. and Piliouras, Anastasia and Schwenk, Jon and Fischer, Woodward W. (2021) Impact of River Channel Lateral Migration on Microbial Communities across a Discontinuous Permafrost Floodplain. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 87 (20). Art. No. e01339-21. ISSN 0099-2240. PMCID PMC8478453. doi:10.1128/aem.01339-21.

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Permafrost soils store approximately twice the amount of carbon currently present in Earth’s atmosphere and are acutely impacted by climate change due to the polar amplification of increasing global temperature. Many organic-rich permafrost sediments are located on large river floodplains, where river channel migration periodically erodes and redeposits the upper tens of meters of sediment. Channel migration exerts a first-order control on the geographic distribution of permafrost and floodplain stratigraphy and thus may affect microbial habitats. To examine how river channel migration in discontinuous permafrost environments affects microbial community composition, we used amplicon sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene on sediment samples from floodplain cores and exposed riverbanks along the Koyukuk River, a large tributary of the Yukon River in west-central Alaska. Microbial communities are sensitive to permafrost thaw: communities found in deep samples thawed by the river closely resembled near-surface active-layer communities in nonmetric multidimensional scaling analyses but did not resemble floodplain permafrost communities at the same depth. Microbial communities also displayed lower diversity and evenness in permafrost than in both the active layer and permafrost-free point bars recently deposited by river channel migration. Taxonomic assignments based on 16S and quantitative PCR for the methyl coenzyme M reductase functional gene demonstrated that methanogens and methanotrophs are abundant in older permafrost-bearing deposits but not in younger, nonpermafrost point bar deposits. The results suggested that river migration, which regulates the distribution of permafrost, also modulates the distribution of microbes potentially capable of producing and consuming methane on the Koyukuk River floodplain.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ItemData CentralArticle
Douglas, Madison M.0000-0002-0762-4719
Lingappa, Usha F.0000-0001-5691-6788
Lamb, Michael P.0000-0002-5701-0504
Rowland, Joel C.0000-0001-6308-8976
West, A. Joshua0000-0001-6909-1471
Li, Gen0000-0002-6300-3570
Kemeny, Preston C.0000-0003-1693-4142
Chadwick, Austin J.0000-0002-2552-0083
Piliouras, Anastasia0000-0002-6336-0762
Schwenk, Jon0000-0001-5803-9686
Fischer, Woodward W.0000-0002-8836-3054
Additional Information:© 2021 American Society for Microbiology. Received 7 July 2021; Accepted 26 July 2021; Accepted manuscript posted online 4 August 2021; Published online 28 September 2021. We thank the Koyukuk-hotana Athabascans, First Chief Norman Burgett, and the Huslia Tribal Council for access to their land and USFWS–Koyukuk National Wildlife refuge for research permitting and logistical assistance. Shawn Huffman, Alvin Attla, and Virgil Umphenour provided invaluable field logistical support and local expertise. Stephanie Connon helped with iTAG and sequencing preparation. We acknowledge support from Foster and Coco Stanback, the Linde Family, the Caltech Terrestrial Hazards Observation and Reporting (THOR) Center, and the Caltech Center for Environmental Microbial Interactions (CEMI) for funding this research. M.M.D. and P.C.K. acknowledge support from the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (NDSEG). P.C.K. acknowledges the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Cohen/Jacobs and Stein Family Fellowship. U.F.L. acknowledges support of the National Science Foundation (GRFP). Support was also provided by the Department of Energy Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research Subsurface Biogeochemical Research (SBR) Program Early Career award to J.C.R. Data availability: All sequences are available at NCBI Sequence Read Archive, under BioProject accession number PRJNA728135.
Group:Caltech Center for Environmental Microbial Interactions (CEMI)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Foster and Coco Stanback Postdoctoral FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Ronald And Maxine Linde Center for Global Environmental ScienceUNSPECIFIED
Caltech Terrestrial Hazard Observation and Reporting (THOR) CenterUNSPECIFIED
Caltech Center for Environmental Microbial Interactions (CEMI)UNSPECIFIED
National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Fannie and John Hertz FoundationUNSPECIFIED
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Department of Energy (DOE)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:permafrost, active layer, methanogenesis, methanotrophy, Koyukuk, Alaska
Issue or Number:20
PubMed Central ID:PMC8478453
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210831-221808372
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Douglas MM, Lingappa UF, Lamb MP, Rowland JC, West AJ, Li G, Kemeny PC, Chadwick AJ, Piliouras A, Schwenk J, Fischer WW. 2021. Impact of river channel lateral migration on microbial communities across a discontinuous permafrost floodplain. Appl Environ Microbiol 87:e01339-21.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:110676
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:31 Aug 2021 22:29
Last Modified:05 Jul 2022 16:46

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