Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cosmopolitan snow algae accelerate the melting of Arctic glaciers

23.06.2016

The role of red pigmented snow algae in melting Arctic glaciers has been strongly underestimated, suggests a study to be published in NATURE Communications on June 22. White areas covered with snow and ice reflect sunlight; the effect is called albedo. It has been known for quite some time that red pigmented snow algae blooming on icy surfaces darken the surface which in turn leads to less albedo and a higher uptake of heat.

The new study by Stefanie Lutz, postdoc at the German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ and at the University of Leeds, shows a 13 per cent reduction of the albedo over the course of one melting season caused by red-pigmented snow algal blooms. "Our results point out that the "bio-albedo" effect is important and has to be considered in future climate models", says lead author Stefanie Lutz.


The red pigmented snow algae cause a darkening of the surface of ice and snow in the Arctic. GFZ researchers analyzed the biodiversity of the algae and estimated how much they contribute to the darkening of the surface.

Credit: Stefanie Lutz/GFZ


Red pigmented snow algae darken the surface of snow and ice in the Arctic.

Credit: Liane G. Benning/GFZ

The red snow phenomenon occurs mainly in warm months. During late spring and summer, thin layers of meltwater form on ice and snow in the Arctic and on mountains. Liquid water and sunlight are crucial for the growth of snow algae; over the winter season they fall into a dormant state.

In their study, the team led by Stefanie Lutz and Liane G. Benning investigated the biodiversity of snow algae and other microbial communities using high-throughput genetic sequencing. They took about forty samples from 21 glaciers in the Pan-European Arctic. The sampling sites ranged from Greenland over Iceland and Svalbard to the north of Sweden.

Together with UK colleagues they found a high biodiversity within the bacteria, depending on the locations they lived, whereas the biodiversity of the snow algal communities was rather uniform. In other words: Throughout the Arctic regions, it is most probably the same algal species that cause red snow and thus accelerate melting.

The blooming leads to a runaway effect: The more glaciers and snow fields thaw the more algae bloom which in turn results in a darkening of the surface which again accelerates melting. Liane G. Benning, head of the GFZ's section „Interface Geochemistry", says: „Our work paves the way for a universal model of algal-albedo interaction and a quantification of additional melting caused by algal blooms."

For years, "bio-albedo has been a niche topic", says Daniel Remias, biologist at the Fachhochschule Wels, Austria. The snow algae specialist comments on the study: "For the first time ever, researchers have investigated the large-scale effect of microorganisms on the melting of snow and ice the Arctic." Remias visited the GFZ for an international snow algae meeting organized by Liane G. Benning.

He stresses the interdisciplinary approach of the project: "Steffi Lutz' and Liane G. Benning's study for the first time combines microbiological and genetic analyses of red snow algae with geochemical and mineralogical properties as well as with the albedo of their habitat." An international, UK led team, including the GFZ's researchers will work this summer on the Greenland Ice Sheet where currently a record-breaking melting rate due to high temperatures is observed. Steffi Lutz, Liane G. Benning and UK colleagues will investigate whether and to what extent pigmented algae contribute to the record melting.

Media Contact

Josef Zens
josef.zens@gfz-potsdam.de
49-331-288-1049

 @GFZ_Potsdam

http://www.gfz-potsdam.de 

Josef Zens | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht How much biomass grows in the savannah?
16.02.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

nachricht Canadian glaciers now major contributor to sea level change, UCI study shows
15.02.2017 | University of California - Irvine

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Switched-on DNA

20.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Second cause of hidden hearing loss identified

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

Prospect for more effective treatment of nerve pain

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>