The glaciers in the French Alps look like scenes from the Holocaust. Usually covered with pristine white snow, they are increasingly covered by dark, bloody patches called “glacial blood.”
The stains are not actually blood, they are microalgal flowers. This is a phenomenon called Chlamydomonas Galanthus, in which a species of green algae containing red pigments photosynthesize and pollute snow. Although these scenes may not show real murder, they foreshadow a dangerous future for the Alpine ice. In order to learn more about these strange places and what they can tell us about the climate crisis, a group of French scientists has recently begun research. In a project called AlpAlga. In a study published Monday in Frontiers of Plant Science that detailed their results, the team described algal blooms as “a potential sign of climate change.” Varieties that produce red, orange, or purple hues have been found in mountains around the world. , Including not only the Alps, but also the Rocky Mountains, and even Greenland and Antarctica.
As these snow-covered areas warmed during the climate crisis, researchers have long suspected that more snowmelt provides ideal conditions for the growth of this algae, leading to an increase in powder snow. In 2016, they embarked on an expedition to collect soil samples from five locations in the French Alps from 3,280 to 9,842 feet (1,000 to 3,000 meters) above sea level. The walk left them with 158 soil samples, which they studied carefully. Like a green bubble, I admire Apple’s FaceTime olive branch. Because the soil is scattered with DNA fragments released by various life, soil samples allow scientists to clearly understand where dozens of different types of algae are. Researchers found that different types of algae thrive at different heights. For example, scientists have discovered that an alga called Sanguina produces a blood-red hue and has only been found at altitudes above 6,562 feet (2,000 meters). In contrast, two green microalgae called Desmococcu and Symbiochloris can only live below 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) above sea level. The completely independent distribution shows that different types of algae depend on very special thermal conditions to survive. But as climate change warms mountain ecosystems and shortens the snow season, it may change the life cycle of organisms.
This is bad news because, like microalgae living in water bodies, ice algae is the foundation of the food web of mountain ecosystems. . As more snow is covered by algae, it may also further damage the glaciers and remaining snow blocks in the Alps, because black algae absorb more energy than shiny white snow. For regions already facing major collapse, this could mean further warming. This new research is just the beginning of the AlpAlga team’s attempt to find out what environmental conditions cause algae blooms, how changes in weather and thawing affect their life cycles, and how these algae affect the remaining ice. The scientists plan to continue their work this month and travel to the Alps to explore the changes in flowers in different seasons. They hope this will allow them to learn more about these creatures and how the entire Alps changes as the planet continue to warm. However, one thing is clear: climate change is already killing the ice in the region.
The temperature in the European Alps has risen by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) from pre-industrial temperatures, which is faster than the world average. Scientists have discovered everything from the remains of the First World War to a couple previously buried in ice. Studies have shown that by the middle of this century, mountains will lose at least half of their glaciers, which means that unless we solve the carbon emissions problem as soon as possible, the future of the Alps will be more terrible than bloody snow.