Greenland’s name may one day match its description. Although known for its beautiful ice sheets and winter landscape, the Greenland the world once knew may actually one day become completely green.
Now how could Greenland become green you ask? There are many factors affecting melting ice sheets in Greenland. One contributing factor is climate change. Many scientists are worried that as temperatures continue to increase, due to the effects of Greenhouse gas emissions; the stability of the ice sheets found in Greenland may decrease over time. There is evidence showing that the ice sheets which have remained relatively stable in the region for almost 7.5 million years could completely melt in approximately 2500 years from now. Also, the current state of ice sheets found in Greenland could contribute to rising sea levels of approximately 7 metres, therefore scientists continue to monitor the increasing temperatures and effects of different variables on the stability of the ice sheets.
Another major concern when discussing variables that cause ice sheets in Greenland to melt have to do with Algae. Specifically Algae Summer Parties…
Sounds fun right? Well not exactly, this type of algae is known to be senescent until a period of time until they rapidly increase their activity. The result: watermelon snow. Or at least that is what the snow looks like after the Chlamydomonas nivalis algae began to live on glacial ice sheets. The algae eventually spreads from green photosynthetic algae that turns red to protect itself from the suns ultraviolet rays. Although it makes the ice sheets beautiful, research shows that the photosynthetic algae could help speed up glacial ice sheet melting by absorbing more of the suns energy and causing melting.
Figure: Witze, Alexandra. “Algae are melting away the Greenland ice sheet.” Nature535.7612 (2016): 336.
The effects of the algal blooms on vegetative and species in the area is most likely negative. When the ice caps melt, species and plants that are adapted to such conditions may not be able to shift distributional range or preform specific functions isolated to ice sheets, which in turn could promote loss of biodiversity. Although beautiful, there needs to be solutions set forward to combat the effects of watermelon snow, and the overall effects of melting ice caps!
Dowell, Scott F., David Blazes, and Susan Desmond-Hellmann. “Four steps to precision public health.” Nature News 540.7632 (2016): 189.
Witze, Alexandra. “Algae are melting away the Greenland ice sheet.” Nature535.7612 (2016): 336.