Contrasting the influences of stream inputs and landscape position on bacterioplankton community structure and dissolved organic matter composition in high-elevation lake chains

Nelson, Craig E., Steven Sadro, John M. Melack

Limnol. Oceanogr., 54(4), 2009, 1292-1305 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2009.54.4.1292

ABSTRACT: We examined bacterioplankton community composition (BCC; using polymerase chain reaction-based phylogenetic fingerprinting) and the composition of dissolved organic matter (DOM; using scanning fluorometry) within lake chains in high-elevation catchments of the Sierra Nevada, California. We compared temporal BCC dynamics in two connected cirque lakes and their inlets and found that lake : inlet community similarity of both lakes declined with increasing residence time because of seasonal snowpack melting. However, for over 3 yr the headwater lake remained distinct from its inlet even during peak snowmelt (residence time <5 d), whereas the downstream lake was consistently similar to both its inlet and the upstream lake. We subsequently sampled 17 lake chains (4-8 lakes each) throughout the Sierra Nevada longitudinally to examine how landscape position and catchment characteristics influenced the similarity in BCC and DOM among lakes and their connecting streams. Headwater lakes were significantly less similar to their inlet streams than were downstream lakes. BCC was heterogeneous throughout each catchment, but headwater inlet BCC was consistently distinct from all downstream samples. In contrast, DOM exhibited a trend of increasing homogeneity as water moved downstream: upstream and downstream waters were distinct but without clear headwater outliers. The similarity in BCC and DOM between any two lakes within a chain declined with geographic distance. Our results illustrate the contrasting roles of environmental selection and dispersal in structuring bacterioplankton communities, supporting both strong within-lake environmental selection for communities distinct from terrigenous inputs and a weaker effect of geographic dispersal differentiating communities among lakes linked by advective flow.

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