Department Environmental Chemistry

Cyanobacteria in the Swiss Alps

This is a joint project between Eawag and WSL researchers. We study the genetic and metabolic diversity of cyanobacteria that polulate large parts of the rock surface in the Alps. These are Tintenstrich Communities (TC, “ink lines”), that appear as black stripes that develop on rock surface mostly where water runoff occurs. They are mostly formed by lichen that are associated with either green algae or cyanobacteria.

In the 1940s the scientist Otto Jaag was a pioneer who characterized TC communities in different areas of Switzerland using morphological analysis. Cyanobacteria also can produce toxic metabolites that are well studied in surface waters. However, we currently have no information about cyanotoxins from Tintenstrich in the Swiss. With our work, we return to Jaag field sites and investigate the genetic and metabolite biodiversity of cyanobacteria with state-of-the art analytical tools including Illumina sequencing and high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry. Beyong the biodiversity, we further investigate possible transport of bacteria or toxins from the TCs with the runoff water and study herbivore interaction with cyano-lichen.