New Article Reports Current Knowledge on the Microbial Ecology of the Cryosphere
A report synthesizes our current knowledge of microbial ecosystems in cold (below 5 degrees Celcius) environments, including glacial habitats.
From Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology: “Microorganisms in cold ecosystems play a key ecological role in their natural habitats. Since these ecosystems are especially sensitive to climate changes, as indicated by the worldwide retreat of glaciers and ice sheets as well as permafrost thawing, an understanding of the role and potential of microbial life in these habitats has become crucial. Emerging technologies have added significantly to our knowledge of abundance, functional activity, and lifestyles of microbial communities in cold environments. The current knowledge of microbial ecology in glacial habitats and permafrost, the most studied habitats of the cryosphere, is reported in this review.”
A Moving Border: Alpine Cartographies of Climate Change
A new book explores how global warming poses a challenge to national borders.
From the Columbia University Press description: “Italy’s northern border follows the watershed that separates the drainage basins of Northern and Southern Europe. Running mostly at high altitudes, it crosses snowfields and perennial glaciers—all of which are now melting as a result of anthropogenic climate change. As the watershed shifts so does the border, contradicting its representations on official maps. Italy, Austria, and Switzerland have consequently introduced the novel legal concept of a “moving border,” one that acknowledges the volatility of geographical features once thought to be stable.”
Scandinavia House Screens 2017 Film Following World War II Fighter Through Norway’s Frozen Landscapes
From Scandinavia House: “Based on the true-life tale of World War II resistance fighter Jan Baalsrud, The 12th Man follows a Norwegian mission group’s journey across the North Sea to sabotage a German military facility. When the group’s identity is compromised and they’re attacked by a Nazi warship, Baalsrud is the sole member to evade capture, who escapes by swimming across frigid fjord waters to a nearby island to hide within the mountains.What follows is a harrowing exodus, as Baalsrud fights to stay alive in sub-freezing temperatures, surrounded by landscapes that are as stunningly beautiful as they are treacherous. In his quest for survival under relentless pursuit by a Nazi officer, Baalsrud must rely on the compassion of locals willing to risk their lives to help him cross the border to safety in Sweden.”
Project BlackIce Examines Microbes and Glacial Albedo
From Project BlackIce: “Algae can protect themselves before damaging UV-radiation by darker pigmentation which results in a darkening of the surface which is increasing the availability of liquid water, hence again the growth of microbial communities. This biologically induced impact on albedo is called ‘bioalbedo’ which has never been taken into account in climate models. So far we have most information on bioalbedo on arctic glaciers which is quite a shame that literally nothing is known about alpine glaciers. The aim of this interdisciplinary study is a quantification and qualification of organic and inorganic particles on an alpine glacier (Jamtalferner).”
From Schütz & Füreder: “Glacially influenced alpine streams are characterized by year-round harsh environmental conditions. Only a few, highly adapted benthic insects, mainly chironomid larvae (genus Diamesa) live in these extreme conditions. Although several studies have shown patterns in ecosystem structure and function in alpine streams, cause–effect relationships of abiotic components on aquatic insects’ life strategies are still unknown. Sampling was performed at Schlatenbach, a river draining the Schlatenkees (Hohe Tauern NP, Austria)… This is the first study to show that harsh conditions in these environments (low temperatures, high turbidity and flow dynamics) may exclude many taxa, but favor other, highly adapted species, when their essential needs (food quality and quantity) are guaranteed.”
From Nature: “In this article, I estimated net glacial melt volumes on the river-basin scale from long-term precipitation and temperature records (1951–2007), taking into account the various mass contributions from avalanching, sublimation, snow drifting and so on… I estimated the second meltwater component (the additional contribution from glacier losses) as −0.35 to −0.40 metres water-equivalent per decade based on a global compilation of long-term mass-balance observations (from table 2 in ref. 32 of the Article). In this table, losses are described as ‘decadal averages (millimetres water equivalent)’ but the units are actually intended to be decadally averaged annual values. Hence, the loss components of total meltwater that I used in my calculations are too small and the summed meltwater volumes reported here should be larger. Asia’s glaciers are thus regionally a more important buffer against drought than I first stated, strengthening some of the conclusions of this study but also altering others. I am therefore retracting this article.”
Anomalous Stable Glaciers in the Karakoram Mountains
From Climate Dynamics: “Glaciers over the central Himalaya have retreated at particularly rapid rates in recent decades, while glacier mass in the Karakoram appears stable. To address the meteorological factors associated with this contrast, 36 years of Climate Forecast System Reanalyses (CFSR) are dynamically downscaled from 1979 to 2015 with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model over High Mountain Asia at convection permitting grid spacing (6.7 km). In all seasons, CFSR shows an anti-cyclonic warming trend over the majority of High Mountain Asia, but distinctive differences are observed between the central Himalaya and Karakoram in winter and summer.”
Read more about the climatic differences between the central Himalaya and Karakoram here.
Microbial Differences of Two Andean Lakes
From Aquatic Microbiology: “The limnological signatures of Laguna Negra and Lo Encañado, two oligotrophic Andean lakes which receive water from Eucharren Glacier and are exposed to the same climatic scenario, were driven by the characteristics of the corresponding sub-watersheds. The abundance of phototrophic bacteria is a significant metabolic difference between the microbial communities of the lakes which is not correlated to the Chla concentration.”
Read more about microbial differences of two Andean lakes here.
Carabid Beetles in Norway
From Norwegian Journal of Entomology: “Nine species of carabid beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae) were pitfall-trapped during two years in an alpine glacier foreland of southern Norway. A two-year (biennial) life cycle was documented for Nebria nivalis (Paykull, 1790), N. rufescens (Ström, 1768), and Patrobus septentrionis Dejean, 1828. This was based on the simultaneous hibernation of larvae and adults. In P. septentrionis, both larvae and adults showed a considerable activity beneath snow. A limited larval material of Amara alpina (Paykull, 1790) and A. quenseli (Schönherr, 1806) from the snow-free period indicated larval hibernation. A. quenseli was, however, not synchronized with respect to developmental stages, and its life cycle was difficult to interpret.”
Read more about the ecology of carabid beetles in an alpine glacier foreland here.
Any avid hiker or mountaineer would agree life as a scientist studying microbes on glaciers is not too bad. Just look the business trips they get to make. Italian scientists Dr. Andrea Franzetti, environmental microbiologist, and his colleague Dr. Roberto Ambrosini, ecologist, took a trip to Baltoro Glacier in Pakistan to collect data and bacteria samples for their latest work on supraglacial microbes.
Each week, we highlight three stories from the forefront of glacier news.
Fungal Biodiversity in the Periglacial Soil of Dosdè Glacier
From The Journal of Basic Microbiology:
“Periglacial areas are one of the least studied habitats on Earth, especially in terms of their fungal communities. In this work, both molecular and culture-dependent methods have been used to analyse the microfungi in soils sampled on the front of the East Dosdè Glacier (Valtellina, Northern Italy). Although this survey revealed a community that was rich in fungal species, a distinct group of psychrophilic microfungi has not been detected. Most of the isolated microfungi were mesophiles, which are well adapted to the sensitive climatic changes that occur in this alpine environment. A discrepancy in the results that were obtained by means of the two diagnostic approaches suggests that the used molecular methods cannot entirely replace traditional culture-dependent methods, and vice versa.”
Review of Climate Change and the Impacts on Cryosphere, Hydrological Regimes and Glacier Lakes
From FutureWater Report:
“The climate, cryosphere and hydrology of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region have been changing in the past and will change in the future. In this literature review, the state of knowledge regarding climate change and its connections to changes in the cryosphere and hydrology has been investigated, with a specific focus on impacts for hydropower development. From historical trends in climate it is clear that air temperature has been increasing in the HKH region over the past decades. Rates of increase are different for daily mean air temperature, maximum air temperature and minimum air temperature. Temperature in the higher elevations increased more over time than temperature in lower elevations. Historical precipitation trends on the other hand show no significant increasing or decreasing trends overall, but the trends vary locally.”
“Microbial communities in alpine environments are exposed to several environmental factors related to elevation and local site conditions and to extreme seasonal variations. However, little is known on the combined impact of such factors on microbial community structure. We assessed the effects of seasonal variations on soil fungal and bacterial communities along an elevational gradient (from alpine meadows to a glacier forefield, 1930–2519 m a.s.l.) over 14 months.”
Read more about microbial communities found on glaciers here.