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An improved estimate of microbially mediated carbon fluxes from the Greenland ice sheet

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Abstract:

Microbially mediated carbon fluxes on the surface of the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) were recently quantified by Hodson and others (2010) using measurements of the surface coverage of debris (cryoconite) and rates of biological production associated with debris near the ice-sheet margin. We present updated models that do not assume the same spatial uniformity in key parameters employed by Hodson and others (2010) because they make use of biomass distribution and biological production data from a 79 km transect of the GrIS. Further, the models presented here also include for the first time biomass associated with both cryoconite holes and surficial algae. The predicted annual carbon flux for a small (1600 km2) section of ice surrounding the field transect is about four times that estimated using spatially uniform biomass and production in this area. When surficial algae are included, the model predicts about 11 times more carbon fixation via photosynthesis per year than the cryoconite-only models. We therefore suggest that supraglacial carbon fluxes from the GrIS have previously been underestimated by more than an order of magnitude and that the hitherto overlooked surficial algal ecosystem can be the most crucial contributor. The GrIS is shown to be in a relatively stable state of net autotrophy according to our model and so a strong link between bare-ice area and total carbon fluxes is evident. The implication is a biomass feedback to surface albedo and enhanced ablation as a result. Climate predictions for the year 2100 show that greater carbon fixation could also result from climate warming.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/2012JoG12J001

Publication date: December 1, 2012

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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igsoc/jog/2012/00000058/00000212/art00006
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