Glaciers are not the best places on our planet to hope to find life. Indeed, between cold, lack of resources, and strong solar radiation, etc. we can say that the conditions are not very engaging. That said, research in recent years has shown that even in very inhospitable environments, life can still thrive.
The proof is, a team of researchers recently discovered 968 species of microbes in glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau. A discovery that required 4 years of effort, covering the microbial ecosystems of 21 Tibetan glaciers.
The icing on the cake, 82% of the microbes identified are new species.
To better understand the microbiome of glaciers
Directly associated with global warming and its effects, the decline of certain ecosystems such as permafrost and glaciers – Antarctica or Greenland for example – are today one of the concerns of the scientific community. In question, there is the upheaval of the entire climatic mechanism on a global scale and of course the rise in sea level.
But a more insidious threat looms on the horizon, through the microorganisms these ecosystems have trapped over tens or even hundreds of thousands of years. Microorganisms about which we know almost nothing yet and whose consequences are potentially dangerous if they were released into nature. The discovery of 28 unknown virus types two years ago in Tibet is a perfect example.
Going back to the recent discovery, part of a project called Tibetan Glacier Genome and Gene (TG2G), the researchers want to compile a genomic and genetic catalog of contemporary microbes, but also older ones, present in Tibetan glaciers.
Ultimately, it would be very interesting from a scientific point of view to do the same for the other frozen ecosystems on the planet, according to them. This is to keep a trace of life if ever these ecosystems were to disappear one day. And why not deal with threats that microbes, viruses, and other microorganisms represent in a world that is still struggling to recover from Covid.