What organisms live on glaciers?

In some parts of the world there are organisms living right on glaciers. Is this true for Antarctica as well and, if so, what organisms are there?

Although the Antarctic ice sheets are cold, high and arid, and are a very harsh place to live, they support a surprising variety of microbial life. In fact, ice sheets are recognised as an ecosystem in their own right. There is life actually occurring under the ice, living in the film of water and in the lakes and flowing water at the base of the ice sheet. Bacterial life also occurs inside ice crystals – but metabolism is very slow. Life also occurs at the ice surface, with ice algae, ice worms and bacteria. Cryoconite accumulates in hollows on the ice surface; this comprises microbes bound to minerals.

More information is on the Glacier Ecosystem and Carbon Flux on Glaciers webpages.

About

I am a Senior Lecturer at Newcastle Univeristy, specialising in glaciology and glacial geology. I wrote and developed the AntarcticGlaciers.org website as part of an ongoing commitment to outreach, education and research impact. Read more about me at www.antarcticglaciers.org/bethan-davies.

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