Recharge from glacial meltwater is critical for alpine springs and their microbiomes

Jordyn B. Miller, Marty D. Frisbee, Trinity L. Hamilton, Senthil K. Murugapiran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The importance of glacier meltwater as a source of mountain-block recharge remains poorly quantified, yet it may be essential to the integrity of alpine aquatic ecosystems by maintaining baseflow in streams and perennial flow in springs. We test the hypothesis that meltwater from alpine glaciers is a critical source of recharge for mountain groundwater systems using traditional stable isotopic source-identification techniques combined with a novel application of microbial DNA. We find that not only is alpine glacier meltwater a critical source of water for many springs, but that alpine springs primarily supported by glacial meltwater contain microbial taxa that are unique from springs primarily supported by seasonal recharge. Thus, recharge from glacial meltwater is vital in maintaining flow in alpine springs and it supports their distinct microbiomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number064012
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 20 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • alpine glacier
  • glacial melt
  • groundwater
  • hydrogeology
  • microbe


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