In proglacial floodplains, glacier recession promotes biogeochemical and ecological gradients across relatively small spatial scales. The resulting environmental heterogeneity induces remarkable microbial biodiversity among proglacial stream biofilms. Yet the relative importance of environmental constraints in forming biofilm communities remains largely unknown. Extreme environmental conditions in proglacial streams may lead to the homogenizing selection of biofilm-forming microorganisms. However, environmental differences between proglacial streams may impose different selective forces, resulting in nested, spatially structured assembly processes. Here, we investigated bacterial community assembly processes by unraveling ecologically successful phylogenetic clades in two stream types (glacier-fed mainstems and non-glacier-fed tributaries) draining three proglacial floodplains in the Swiss Alps. Clades with low phylogenetic turnover rates were present in all stream types, including Gammaproteobacteria and Alphaproteobacteria, while the other clades were specific to one stream type. These clades constituted up to 34.8% and 31.1% of the community diversity and up to 61.3% and 50.9% of the relative abundances in mainstems and tributaries, respectively, highlighting their importance and success in these communities. Furthermore, the proportion of bacteria under homogeneous selection was inversely related to the abundance of photoautotrophs, and these clades may therefore decrease in abundance with the future “greening” of proglacial habitats. Finally, we found little effect of physical distance from the glacier on clades under selection in glacier-fed streams, probably due to the high hydrological connectivity of our study reaches. Overall, these findings shed new light on the mechanisms of microbial biofilm assembly in proglacial streams and help us to predict their future in a rapidly changing environment. A copy is freely available here.
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