Melting glaciers in Tibet release 1,000 unknown microbes

Près de 1.000 microbes ont été découverts dans les glaciers du plateau tibétain. © Maygutyak, Adobe Stock

Chinese scientists have discovered about 1,000 microbes, bacteria and viruses trapped in glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau. As the ice melts, these thousands-of-year-old microorganisms are gradually released.

The Tibetan Plateau Considered the third pole with 46,000 glaciers: it includes The third largest snow concentration After the north and south poles of the world. The surfaces of glaciers are far from devoid of life and contain a wide variety of life forms. Bacteriaof AlgaeMushrooms or even Archaea. These are Microorganisms Glaciers play an important role in ecology. It was in this context that a team of Chinese scientists discovered 968 species of microorganisms. These microbes live in extreme conditions: freezing temperatures, high levels of solar radiation, and almost no food sources. They have the ability to freeze and thaw depending on the temperature. Chinese scientists are now a Research projectEntitled ” list Genes And Genoa Tibetan Glacier » (TG2G), which is to be supplemented by the discovery of new organisms as research progresses.

80% of Tibetan glaciers are melting

The Tibetan Plateau, with an area of ​​2.5 million square kilometers, is the main source of water for the Asian cities that border it. The so-called “Asian water tower” is warming three times faster than the global average. According to the World Meteorological Organization,” Most of the Tibetan Plateau has seen a decrease in snow days between 1980 and 2016, by an average of 2 days/year in almost half of the region, and more than 4 days/year in some areas. Climate change has already shrunk 80% of the plateau’s glaciers.

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Scientists believe it is necessary to catalog the microclimate of these glaciers in order to assess its effects and potential problems. Melting Snow, therefore with the dispersion of these microorganisms. The team has already sequenced 3,241 genes from 21 glaciers between 2016 and 2020. Some 82% of the genes were new species, 11% of these species were found in a single glacier and 10% were found in all glaciers studied. These glaciers are actual “records” of past life. Because they trap microbes that are 10,000 years old Can be revived when conditions are right. In 2021, Another study Chinese scientists have identified 33 viruses (including 28 unknown ones) trapped in the Kulia Ice Sheet in Tibet. Some of these discovered viruses are estimated to be over 15,000 years old.

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

how Germs, viruses, bacteria And can mushrooms be frozen? According to Chinese researchers, these viruses mainly come from plants and the soil in which they grow. Dust from these soils 10,000 or 15,000 years ago is simply trapped in the snow, as well as large Carbon And methane: 12 million tons of carbon locked up in Tibetan ice. Snow melting is connected Global warming So the global multiplicity poses a danger, already underway: the dispersal of these into the atmosphere Green house gas This again will worsen the warming, but also these microbes land and Tibetan water.

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