We explore the diversity and functional characteristics of microorganisms living in glacier-fed streams from around the world before their habitat disappears with ongoing climate change.
Mountain glaciers are disappearing around the world at a rapid pace. Yet, the full impact of this global transition cannot be fully appreciated given our limited understanding of the life that inhabits these extreme environments. This stands in stark contrast to most other biomes on Earth which have been studied in detail, including deep sea sediments and high elevation terrestrial ecosystems.
Microorganisms are the most ancient, abundant, and successful lifeforms on Earth. For more than three billion years, microorganisms have been at the center of major planetary cycles, enduring mass extinctions and global ice ages. In glacier-fed streams, microbial life dominates, utilizing a diversity of lifestyles and strategies to survive in some of the most harsh environments on the planet, just as they have for millions of years.