Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Bowden, William Breck


The National Park Service (NPS) Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Program is designed to collect baseline data on “vital sign” indicators across the entire NPS system. The project presented in this thesis was designed to supplement to efforts of the Artic Network (ARCN) to catalogue the physical, chemical and biological metrics associated with the Stream Communities and Ecosystems vital sign and to foster a better understanding of the basic structure and function of these remote systems. This data is essential to assess the impacts of current and future environmental change in the ARCN parks. The primary objective of this project was to quantify the genetic diversity of microbial communities of selected arctic stream ecosystems. Microbes are a fundamentally important but poorly understood component of arctic stream ecosystems. They are responsible for recycling organic matter and regenerating nutrients that are essential to the food webs of aquatic ecosystems. Recent research (Jorgenson et al. 2002) in the ARCN parks has shown that two fundamentally different lithologies – ultramafic and non-carbonate – influence terrestrial productivity and impart different geochemical characteristics to stream water. Microbes are found in different stream habitats – sediment (epipssamon) and rock (epilithon) biofilms. In this work we test the hypothesis that these differences in lithology and stream habitat influence the genetic diversity of bacterial biofilm communities in arctic streams and whether these patterns can be correlated to stream biogeochemistry. A microbial community fingerprinting method, T-RFLP, as well as 16S rRNA gene sequencing were used to explore the genetic diversity of microbial communities in sediment and epilithic biofilms in stream reaches that drain watersheds with contrasting lithologies in the Noatak National Preserve, Alaska. Differing patterns in bacterial community composition at both the large-scale (lithology) and small-scale (stream habitat) were observed. Non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) ordination of T-RFLP peaks and Analysis of Similarity (ANOSIM) showed a high degree of separation (ANOSIM P < 0.001) between the non-carbonate and ultramafic lithologies, as well as the two habitats, sediment and epilithon. Significant (P < 0.005, Bonferroni corrected) positive correlations were detected between particular nutrients, base cations, and dissolved organic carbon and bacterial community structure unique to each lithology. Although clone libraries indicated high bacterial OTU diversity within and across stream sites, biogeographical patterns were observed depending on locality type. Rarefaction analyses indicated that streams arising from the non-carbonate lithology may be more diverse than streams arising from the ultramafic lithology. Analysis of MOlecular VAriance (AMOVA) indicated that sediment and epilithon samples had genetically different microbial communities (P = 0.01) and taxonomic identifications revealed markedly different bacterial residents between sediment and epilithon habitats. Our results show relationships at large- and small-scales at the landscape level and in ecological niches within a single stream.