Subglacial carbon

Linking microbial diversity and carbon cycling in subglacial ecosystems and during the subglacial-proglacial transition

Subglacial ecosystems at glacial beds contain considerable amounts of organic matter overridden during periods of ice advance. They are vulnerable to the ongoing climate change, and large amounts of subglacial sediment are exposed annually by glacier retreat and flushed by melt water, with potential impacts on regional carbon fluxes. Our projects aim to quantify microbe-mediated organic carbon transformation processes in the rapidly changing subglacial ecosystems and to facilitate prediction of the future change in the regional carbon stores and flows associated with deglaciation by identifying environmental controls of these processes.

We collect samples from glacial systems of different age and size and perform laboratory experiments and analyses to quantify carbon cycling process under the ice and to assess how the melting of glaciers affects regional carbon flows through mobilising subglacial carbon stores and promoting microbial activity.

This research has been supported by the Czech Science Foundation grants “The bright future of subglacial ecosystems: Impacts of deglaciation on microbial activity and carbon cycling at glacier beds”(15-17346Y; 2015-2017) and “Microbial methane oxidation in subglacial ecosystems: An unknown methane sink under glaciers and ice sheets” (18-12630S; 2018-2020).

A new 5-year project called MARCH4G (Microbial Production and Release of Methane from the Greenland Ice Sheet) and supported by the Czech Ministry of Education’s ERC CZ programme will quantify the potential of the GrIS bed to produce and release methane – a potent greenhouse gas – and affect the global methane cycle and climate.

Examples of research output of these projects can be found here & here & here & here & here & here & here.

Leverett portal

Leverett Glacier river portal, SW Greenland. The river is exporting large amounts of subglacial sediment from deep under the ice sheet.