Glacier algae: a dark past and a darker future

Williamson, C. J., Cameron, K. A. , Cook, J. M. and Zarsky, J. D. (2019) Glacier algae: a dark past and a darker future. Frontiers in Microbiology, 10, 519. (doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.00524) (PMID:31019491) (PMCID:PMC6458304)

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“Glacier algae” grow on melting glacier and ice sheet surfaces across the cryosphere, causing the ice to absorb more solar energy and consequently melt faster, while also turning over carbon and nutrients. This makes glacier algal assemblages, which are typically dominated by just three main species, a potentially important yet under-researched component of the global biosphere, carbon, and water cycles. This review synthesizes current knowledge on glacier algae phylogenetics, physiology, and ecology. We discuss their significance for the evolution of early land plants and highlight their impacts on the physical and chemical supraglacial environment including their role as drivers of positive feedbacks to climate warming, thereby demonstrating their influence on Earth’s past and future. Four complementary research priorities are identified, which will facilitate broad advances in glacier algae research, including establishment of reliable culture collections, sequencing of glacier algae genomes, development of diagnostic biosignatures for remote sensing, and improved predictive modeling of glacier algae biological-albedo effects.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This work was funded as part of the UK Natural Environment Research Council Consortium Grant ‘Black and Bloom’ (NE/ M021025/1). KAC was supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 663830 and by the Welsh Government and Higher Education Funding Council for Wales through the Sêr Cymru National Research Network for Low Carbon, Energy, and Environment. JDZ acknowledges support form project GAUK 279715.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cameron, Dr Karen
Authors: Williamson, C. J., Cameron, K. A., Cook, J. M., and Zarsky, J. D.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Frontiers in Microbiology
Publisher:Frontiers Media
ISSN (Online):1664-302X
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 Williamson, Cameron, Cook, Zarsky, Stibal and Edwards
First Published:First published in Frontiers in Microbiology 10: 519
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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