A New Twist on Climate Change

Climate change activity in a remote part of the world has serious implications for our delicate environment and the air we breathe.

Permafrost-Eating Bacteria: A New Twist on Thawing Arctic and Global Warming by Thomas S. Bianchi, University of Florida      Climate Change

  1. Global warming is accelerating the thawing of permafrost.  (Permafrost is the soil that has been at or below the freezing point of water for approximately two or more years.)
  2. This leads to the potent release of methane gas. 
  3. This methane release occurs when methane-producing bacteria consume organic matter in the rotting soil that has been stored in the permafrost over the millennia.  Many scientists predict large releases of methane from these sources as a result of climate change and global warming.
  4. As methane is released, it induces more warming and more permafrost thawing.
  5. Modern day bacteria digest the thawing organic matter called yedoma.  It is from the Pleistocene age.  It is stored in tens to hundreds of meters of permafrost in the Arctic.  The microbe consumption of yedoma produces large amounts of C02, again adding to an already toxic problem.

In addition, another concern emerges.  What, if any, are the implications of yedoma entering the food chain?  If large volumes of yedoma are being release to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in the Arctic, and we know that it is efficiently digested at the lower food chains, it will eventually make its way up to the higher food chain where organism will be eating organic matter that is tens to thousands of years old.