Glacier melt is one of the foremost consequences of global warming. The force of meltwater traveling through subglacial environments dislodges sediments, nutrients and microbiota, causing them to be transported out of the glacier[e.g.1-3]. On deposition downstream, these components build up to form glaciofluvial sediments. Currently, almost nothing is known about the ecology of these sediments. However, given that they likely form deep anoxic environments that are ideal for methane and nitrous oxide greenhouse gas generation; and that they are extensive environments that will expand as climate warming continues[5, 6], there is an urgency to understand their environmental relevance and to incorporate them into projections of climate change.
This project will pioneer investigations into the ecological fate of nutrients and biota released from the Greenland Ice Sheet and Svalbard glaciers and buried within glaciofluvial sediments. Carbon and nitrogen fluxes will be reported, and the biogeochemical and genetic potential for nutrient cycling will be investigated. The role of glaciofluvial sediment biota in weathering and release of trace elements will be examined. This project will lay the foundations for the generation of more robust predictions of Arctic greenhouse gas emissions, and it will pave the way for an improved understanding of the consequences of glacial melt. These knowledge dimensions will be critical for ensuring that the most effective climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies are developed.
References:Cameron et al. Environ Microbiol 19, 524–534 (2017).Hawkings et al. Geochem Perspect Lett 1, 94-104 (2015).Overeem et al. Nat Geosci 10, 859–863 (2017).Cameron et al. Microbal Ecol 74, 6-9 (2017).Bendixen et al. Nature 550, 101-104 (2017).Hasholt et al. Arc Antarc Alp Res 50, S100009 (2018)