A team of researchers at Aberystwyth University studied meltwater from eight glaciers across Europe and North America and two sites in Greenland revealing that 650,000 metric tonnes of bacteria and algae are being released into water
A vast number of bacteria are finding their way into water bodies across the world due to the melting of glaciers attributed to climate change, a new study has found.
A team of researchers at Aberystwyth University studied meltwater from eight glaciers across Europe and North America and two sites in Greenland.
In their paper published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment, the researchers found tens of thousands of microbes in just millimeters of water and estimated that 650,000 metric tons of bacteria and algae are currently being released from glaciers across the Northern Hemisphere. This phenomenon, the study said, is expected to continue for nearly eight decades by when the glaciers will be gone.
“We are seeing the glaciers die before our eyes, affecting the microbes that are there, with implications for us locally and globally,” said Dr Arwyn Edwards, at Aberystwyth University in Wales. “The mass of microbes released is vast even with moderate warming.”
While the danger posed by these flowing microbes to humankind is yet to be established, the researchers aren’t taking any risks.
“We don’t have enough data to understand the value and the threat of these organisms. I routinely get inquiries about whether there is going to be a doomsday pathogen melting out of the glaciers. I think that’s a very minor risk, but it’s not a zero risk, so we need risk assessment of these microbes,” Dr Edwards added.
Tracing of microbial species on frozen surfaces of ice is a relatively new phenomenon. In June, a study published in Nature Portfolio said 21 Tibetan glaciers were home to at least 968 new species of these microorganisms.