Research: melting permafrost revives ancient microbes

Melting permafrost leads to the revival of microbes and bacteria, which can be thousands or millions of years old. IN

these layers may contain ancient frozenmicrobes, remains of the Pleistocene megafauna, and more. As the permafrost thaws at an increasing rate, scientists are faced with the challenge of identifying microbes, bacteria and viruses that can be dangerous to humans.

Permafrost covers 24% of the Earth's surface,and the constituent parts of the soil vary with local geology. Arctic lands can harbor unexplored microbial biodiversity and lead to increased emissions of carbon into the atmosphere.

“We are now facing permafrost degradation,which revives those microbes and bacteria, which may be more than one thousand or even millions of years old. And all of this, naturally, makes us pay more and more attention to this topic, ”said Nikolai Korchunov, senior official of the Arctic Council from the Russian Federation.

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Some of these microbes are already known to scientists. Methanogenic Archaea, for example, metabolize soil carbon to release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Other microbes in the permafrost consume methane. The balance of these microbes is critical in determining future climate warming.

Others are known to scientists, but they do not know how thosewill behave after release. New data on the movement of genes between thawing ecosystems indicate their multilevel restructuring. In the Arctic Ocean, the planktonic bacteria Chloroflexi recently acquired genes used to degrade carbon from terrestrial Actinobacteria. The researchers speculate that as the melted Arctic rivers carried sediment from the melting permafrost to the sea, the genes to recycle carbon from the permafrost also carried over.

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