Please select your home edition
Edition
InSunSport - International - Tough

Microbial life assumes important role in glacier behavior

by British Antarctic Survey on 10 Nov 2012
Glacier British Antarctic Survey © http://www.antarctica.ac.uk
In this week’s edition of Nature Geoscience, a group of international scientists take a tour to the coldest regions on the planet in an attempt to learn more about the biological processes on glaciers surfaces and its role in the physical behavior of these ice giants.

Around 10% of the Earth’s surface is covered by glacial ice (glaciers and ice sheets), some of which melt as part of a natural cycle for a few months each year. Although the physical aspect of glacier and ice sheet melting at both polar regions has been extensively studied, biological processes and their role in the physical behaviour of glaciers and the global carbon cycle have received less attention up until now.

Reporting this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, an international team of scientists review our current understanding of biological processes on glacier surfaces and how these affect the physical and chemical properties of glaciers.

Globally, around 5% of glacier surfaces melt as part of a natural cycle for a few months each year. The surface melt water harbours microbial life – such as cyanobacteria and algae – carried there by the wind. These tiny microbes become active during the melting season and concentrate in patches on the ice. As part of their life cycle, the micro-organisms produce dark pigments which subsequently decrease the reflectivity of the ice surface promoting the rate of melting.

The photosynthetic micro-organisms on the surface of glaciers act as a carbon sink by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting this into organic carbon. However, the carbon is then processed by other microbial communities on the ice and released as carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, thus acting as a carbon dioxide source. Therefore it is unclear whether glacier ecosystems act as a global carbon sink or source.

It is thought however that the more stable parts of Arctic and Antarctic glaciers and ice sheets are likely to act as a sink for carbon dioxide, while small glaciers, mountain glaciers, and the edges of ice sheets, which are more likely to melt quickly, release more carbon into the atmosphere than they fix.

As glaciers melt in response to climate change, carbon not consumed by the microbes on the ice is exported by streams and rivers, which may increase productivity of downstream soil, lake communities and coastal waters. Besides micro-organisms and nutrients, the melt water may also carry toxins and harmful substances that were temporarily stored within the glacier ice.

Biological processes on glacier surfaces clearly play an important role in the physical behaviour of glaciers, particularly in the melting of the ice. Therefore, it is important to include these when new global carbon budgets and climate models are created.

Most data compiled for this study came from field observations from relatively easily accessible sites such as mountain glaciers, Svalbard and Greenland due to the inaccessibility of many parts of the Southern Hemisphere.
upffront 660x82Zhik ZKG 660x82Barz Optics - Kids range

Related Articles

Rio official murdered ten months before the Olympics
Rio de Janeiro is a troubled city and a reeling Olympic host, but it will always have beautiful Guanabara Bay. Does an unsolved murder of an official in Rio in charge of cleaning up Guanabara Bay say a lot about the state of platy in the magical city? Priscilla Pereira was murdered 10 months ago and the thinking is that she was murdered in relation to her work
Posted on 31 Jul
WHO statement on Zika virus
The third meeting of the EC convened by the Director-General under IHR 2005 regarding microcephaly and Zika virus The third meeting of the Emergency Committee (EC) convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR 2005) regarding microcephaly, other neurological disorders and Zika virus was held by teleconference on 14 June 2016, from 13:00 to 17:15 Central European Time.
Posted on 16 Jun
Atlantic Cup 2016 - a race with an environmental commitment
The Atlantic Cup continues to further its mission for the 2016 race by examining the global economic impact of the ocean The Atlantic Cup continues to further its mission for the 2016 race by examining the global economic impact of the ocean and how an unhealthy ocean can affect the economy.
Posted on 7 Apr
Zika virus situation report
From 1 January 2007 to 16 March 2016, Zika virus transmission was documented in a total of 59 countries and territories. From 1 January 2007 to 16 March 2016, Zika virus transmission was documented in a total of 59 countries and territories. Cuba and Dominica are the latest to report autochthonous (local) transmission of Zika virus on 14 and 15 March, respectively. Five of these countries and territories reported a Zika virus outbreak that is now over.
Posted on 2 Apr
Have Norway scientists solved the Bermuda Triangle mystery?
The Bermuda Triangle has been said to have claimed numerous ships and aircraft over the years The Bermuda Triangle has been said to have claimed numerous ships and aircraft over the years, and everything from aliens to remnants from the lost island of Atlantis have been fingered as the culprits.
Posted on 15 Mar
Cyclone Winston Relief Fund – Help the people of Fiji
Sea Mercy is sending volunteer fleet of small and large vessels, loaded with shelter, food and medical supplies to Fiji. Sea Mercy is once again sending our volunteer fleet of small and large vessels, loaded with shelter, food, water and medical supplies and teams to Fiji.
Posted on 27 Feb
Flying Scot Atlantic Coast Champs - Hanson Medals awarded for rescues
US Sailing Safety at Sea Committee awarded the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medals to eight boats for their heroic efforts The US Sailing Safety at Sea Committee awarded the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medals to eight boats for their heroic efforts when a microburst storm hit the 2015 Flying Scot Atlantic Coast Championship, hosted by the Blackbeard Sailing Club, in New Bern, NC on September 12.
Posted on 2 Feb
Eco-warriors Sea-Bin crowd sharing critical stage with nine days to go
The automated marina cleaning SeaBin project has raised 86% of their target with 9 days left. The automated marina cleaning SeaBin project has raised $198,020 of $230,000.00 with nine days left on their Indiegogo crowdfunding platform, but they need more help now.
Posted on 29 Dec 2015
Higher levels of Fukushima Cesium detected offshore
Scientists monitoring the spread of radiation in the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear accident report Scientists monitoring the spread of radiation in the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear accident report finding an increased number of sites off the US West Coast showing signs of contamination from Fukushima. This includes the highest detected level to date from a sample collected about 1,600 miles west of San Francisco.
Posted on 6 Dec 2015
Don’t be a Tosser – Not your usual environmental article!!
The word ‘Tosser’ in the Oxford English dictionary means – ‘a person or thing that throws something’. The word ‘Tosser’ in the Oxford English dictionary means – ‘a person or thing that throws something’. There is no need for me to tell you the other meaning that is commonly used around the world. However in this article it will refer to both at the same time as someone who tosses trash into the ocean, truly is a tosser.
Posted on 3 Dec 2015