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Publications in Nature Geoscience by NOMIS researchers

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

March 1, 2024

Most cryospheric ecosystems are energy limited. How their energetics will respond to climate change remains largely unknown. This is particularly true for glacier-fed streams, which interface with the cryosphere and initiate some of Earth’s largest river systems. Here, by studying resource stoichiometry and microbial energetics in 154 glacier-fed streams sampled by the Vanishing Glaciers project across Earth’s major mountain ranges, we show that these ecosystems and their benthic microbiome are overall carbon and phosphorus limited. Threshold elemental ratios and low carbon use efficiencies (median: 0.15) modelled from extracellular enzymatic activities corroborate resource limitation in agreement with maintenance metabolism of benthic microorganisms. Space-for-time substitution analyses suggest that glacier shrinkage will stimulate benthic primary production in glacier-fed streams, thereby relieving microbial metabolism from carbon limitation. Concomitantly, we find that increasing streamwater temperature will probably stimulate microbial growth (temperature sensitivity: 0.62 eV). Consequently, elevated microbial demands for phosphorus, but diminishing inputs from subglacial sources, may intensify phosphorus limitation as glaciers shrink. Our study thus unveils a ‘green transition’ towards autotrophy in the world’s glacier-fed streams, entailing shifts in the energetics of their microorganisms.

Research field(s)
Ecology, Environmental Sciences