Sci­en­tists probe icy streams for sur­vival clues

The Asian Age - - Science+ Health -

Ateam of sci­en­tists has em­barked on a fouryear quest to dis­cover what be­yond wa­ter the world loses when glaciers melt. By por­ing over micro­organ­isms they find in glacier- fed streams, re­searchers from the Swiss Fed­eral In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy Lau­sanne ( EPFL) hope to bet­ter un­der­stand how these crea­tures have adapted to their ex­treme en­vi­ron­ments. “It's time for us to find new ways to face this un­prece­dented en­vi­ron­men­tal change,” said Tom Bat­tin, aca­demic di­rec­tor at EPFL who will co­or­di­nate the project and lead the re­search, speak­ing to re­porters by the Rhone glacier now cov­ered with re­flec­tive white sheets to help slow its melt­ing. “What is very im­por­tant now in sci­ence is that we start to work across the bound­aries of dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines. Too of­ten and too rapidly we go from glacier loss to sea level rise. What hap­pens in be­tween is un­known,” he said. Re­searchers will travel to the world's largest moun­tain glacier sys­tems, col­lect­ing micro­organ­isms from hun­dreds of glacier- fed streams and an­a­lyz­ing their genomes. The work will take them to streams in Alaska, the Hi­malayas, the An­des, Green­land, Scan­di­navia, Pamir, Kam­chatka, Cau­ca­sus, New Zealand and the Euro­pean Alps. Glaciers and their streams were abun­dant, but are van­ish­ing. Gla­ciol­o­gists pre­dict that half of the small glaciers in Switzer­land will dis­ap­pear within the next 25 years.

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