Schéma des éléments de la cryosphère montrant l'emplacement d'une calotte glaciaire, d'un glacier, d'un pergélisol et d'un iceberg.

Scientists take inventory of microorganisms living in the cryosphere

The cryosphere is a huge reserve of cold which will then be redistributed by the winds and sea currents. It turns out that the cryospheric ecosystems who are among the oldest of the planet are threatened with extinction. This is why scientists from the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne (EPFL) decided to do a inventory of these microorganisms.

Following this inventory work, the researchers were then able to create a huge database on the micro-organisms inhabiting these ecosystems. They also found that beings living in a polar environment have a unique genetic signature.

This base will be a useful resource for future research on the microbiology of climate change.

A cryospheric ecosystem threatened with extinction

Cryospheric ecosystems cover almost 20% of the Earth’s surface. These living beings are found in very cold areas such as polar ice caps, mountain glaciers, glacial lakes, permafrost soils or coastal areas fed by glacier streams.

Diagram of the elements of the cryosphere showing the location of an ice cap, a glacier, permafrost and an iceberg.

Admittedly, the microbiome of these ecosystems remains poorly known and little studied by the scientific community, but they understood that because of global warming, these species are on the verge of extinction. This is why researchers from River Ecosystems Laboratory (RIVER) of EPFL consider that it is urgent to study this microbiome before it disappear forever from the surface of the Earth.

A database on the inhabitants of the cryosphere that will help research

This is how Doctor Massimo Bourquin and his team decided to draw up a complete and comparative inventory microorganisms living in cryospheric ecosystems. He claimed that these microbiomes exhibit unique characteristics which they certainly acquired at an early stage of their evolution.

The scientists then collected no less than 695 samples from various cryospheric ecosystems around the world. The data thus collected enabled them to set up a useful database for future research. They hope this information will help fight against climate change.


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