Microorganisms stabilize methane flows in Arctic and Antarctic

Microorganisms stabilize methane flows in Arctic and Antarctic

July 04, 2023

Bacteria, mosses and lichens behave differently in the North and the South.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Communities of bacteria, mosses and lichens in Arctic and Antarctic soils typically absorb methane released from permafrost by climate change. However, as the humidity in Antarctica rises, these communities stop processing the greenhouse gas and start releasing it.

The study was carried out by the Krasnoyarsk Scientific Center together with Novosibirsk scientists. The results are published in the conference proceedings Physical and Mathematical Modeling of Earth and Environment Processes.

Rising average annual temperatures in the Arctic and Antarctica are causing rapid permafrost melting and contribute to the release of organic carbon and methane. Microbial communities are key elements in this greenhouse gas cycle: bacteria oxidize between 50 and 75 percent of methane.

Experts confirmed that associations of bacteria, mosses and lichens consume and recycle atmospheric methane. But at the same time, the communities of these microorganisms in the Arctic and Antarctica behave differently under certain conditions. In the North, they consumed methane regardless of the season and humidity, while in the South, when humidity increased to 60 percent, mosses, bacteria, and lichens turned from methane absorbents into its producers. The exceptions are the mosses of Sanionia sp and Campylium sp species – they ignore the change in humidity and continue to process methane, reports the Krasnoyarsk Scientific Center.

Earlier, scientists learned about climate change in the North from tree rings, experts found out how peat and moss help preserve permafrost, and spoke about the ‘zombie fires’ features in the Arctic.

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Text: Anzhelika Stepanova, Photos: Nikolay Shchipko and Olga Polyanskaya

July 04, 2023

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