Melting glaciers in Tibet are releasing 1,000 unknown species of microbes

Chinese scientists have discovered nearly 1,000 microbes, bacteria and viruses trapped in glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau. The thaw will gradually release these microorganisms that are several thousand years old.

The Tibetan plateau It is considered the third pole with 46000 glaciers: it includes The third largest concentration of ice The world after the North and South poles. The surfaces of glaciers are far from devoid of life, they contain a large number of different life forms, such as bacteriaalgae, mushroom or even antique. these Microorganisms They play an important role in the ecology of glaciers. In this environment, a team of Chinese scientists discovered 968 different types of microbes. These microbes live in harsh conditions: extremely cold temperatures, high levels of solar radiation, and virtually no food sources. They have the ability to freeze and thaw depending on temperature. Chinese scientists are currently conducting research projectentitled ” Catalog genome And the Genoa From the Tibetan Glacier » (TG2G), which is to be complemented by the discovery of new organisms as the research progresses.

80% of Tibetan glaciers are melting

The Tibetan Plateau, with an area of ​​2.5 million square kilometers, is an important source of water supply for its neighboring Asian cities. The so-called “Asian water tower” is warming three times faster than the global average. According to the World Meteorological OrganizationMost of the Tibetan Plateau experienced a decrease in snow days between 1980 and 2016, with an average decrease of less than 2 days per year for nearly half of the region, and more than 4 days/year in some areas. Climate change has already caused 80% of the plateau’s glaciers to shrink.

Scientists believe that it is necessary to classify the microbes of these glaciers in order to assess the potential consequences and problems with melting ice, thus dispersing these microbes. The team already counted 3,241 genomes from 21 glaciers between 2016 and 2020. About 82% of the genomes are new species, 11% of these are found in the same glacier and 10% are found in all glaciers studied. These glaciers are real “recorders” of life in the past, Because it traps 10,000-year-old microbes Which can come back to life when conditions are right. In 2021, Another study Of the Chinese scientists identified 33 viruses (including 28 unknown) trapped in the Guliya ice shelf in Tibet. Some of these discovered viruses have been estimated to be over 15,000 years old.

Microbes, viruses, carbon and methane are released by global warming

How Germs, Viruses and Bacteria And mushrooms in the ice? According to Chinese researchers, these viruses mainly come from plants and the soil in which they grew. Dust from this 10,000 or 15,000-year-old soil is still trapped in the ice, as are large amounts of carbon And methane: 12 million tons of carbon will be trapped in Tibetan ice. Melting of ice is related to Global Warming So the world presents a multiple danger, already in progress: dispersed into this atmosphere greenhouse gases Exacerbating the warming again, but also from these microorganisms in Earth And the waters of Tibet.

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