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Climate Change

Early colonisation of high arctic substrates exposed by glacier retreat.

The accelerated retreat of glaciers due to climate warming in the Arctic was well-documented, leading to the exposure of virgin surfaces for colonization by plant life and microorganisms. Aerial and satellite images allowed dating of these surfaces, providing chronosequences for studying the interlinked processes of vegetation growth and alteration of colonized substrates.

The accumulation of carbon in the exposed substrate, in the form of organic matter, was a crucial aspect of this process. The project aimed to estimate the potential for carbon accumulation following glacial retreats, focusing on the Bockfjorden area in 2016, particularly the Adolfbre Nygaardbre and Schjelderupbre glaciers.

Field studies systematically mapped macroscopic vegetation, including lichens, bryophytes, and vascular plant species, with GPS used for georeferenced data. Gas fluxes were measured in situ using closed chambers, and samples were brought to the UK for CO2 and CH4 analysis.

Systematic soil sampling covered the survey area, and samples were returned to the UK for chemical and microbiological analysis. The latter focused on the distribution of major functional groups of soil microbes using Biolog, MicroResp(TM), and TRFLP methods. Combining data from these analyses with geographic distributions within a GIS provided a comprehensive understanding of early biological colonization and carbon accumulation potential in high Arctic substrates exposed by glacier retreat.

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