Arctic: microbes in permafrost accelerate the climate crisis



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Arctic: microbes in permafrost accelerate the climate crisis

An article published in Nature explains how the numerous microbes that have long lived in the frozen Arctic soil called permafrost, present in peatlands and in thawing Arctic lakes, are accelerating the melting of permafrost itself and, therefore, consequently, are accelerating the climate crisis.

The thawing of the permafrost is occurring quickly, as the scientists who have worked in the Artoco for decades testify. In the space of a few years, the eprenne ice of these areas could permanently disappear. Those that were fundamental carbon sinks could therefore reverse their function and become, in a short time, dangerous sources of carbon emissions, capable of further altering the global climate.

The microorganisms that inhabit the soils of the Arctic regions could decompose a lot of organic matter that has been trapped in the ice for millennia, processes that emit greater quantities of carbon dioxide and methane.

Virginia Rich, a microbiologist at Ohio State University, said: "In partially thawed muddy bogs, for example, most of the microbes present produce methane through a process called hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis, in which carbon dioxide and hydrogen are consumed.

But in completely thawed bogs. the microbial community becomes more complex, and methane-producing microbes arrive through a process called acetoclastic methanogenesis, in which acetate and carbon dioxide are used to produce methane."

Glaciers melting accelerated over the past 20 years

Melting of ices has accelerated over the past 20 years, and it has contributed to nearly a fifth of sea level rise. Their mapping in HD, published in Nature by an international team led by the University of Toulouse, will allow to improve models on climate change with which to predict future scenarios.

The glaciers present in Alaska and the Andes are the ones that have recorded the greatest losses in the last twenty years, while the Alpine glaciers hold the world record for the reduction of the average thickness, equal to about one meter per year.

Experts said the melting of glaciers involves the loss of important water reservoirs capable of helping agriculture and industry by buffering the scarcity of rainfall in dry periods. Furthermore, the melt water ends up in the seas, which are rising by 3.5 millimeters per year: a problem not only for cities like Venice, but also for the 11% of the world population who live in coastal areas that risk be submerged.