Ice sheets matter for the global carbon cycle

J. L. Wadham*, J. R. Hawkings, L. Tarasov, L. J. Gregoire, R. G.M. Spencer, M. Gutjahr, A. Ridgwell, K. E. Kohfeld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
192 Downloads (Pure)


The cycling of carbon on Earth exerts a fundamental influence upon the greenhouse gas content of the atmosphere, and hence global climate over millennia. Until recently, ice sheets were viewed as inert components of this cycle and largely disregarded in global models. Research in the past decade has transformed this view, demonstrating the existence of uniquely adapted microbial communities, high rates of biogeochemical/physical weathering in ice sheets and storage and cycling of organic carbon (>104 Pg C) and nutrients. Here we assess the active role of ice sheets in the global carbon cycle and potential ramifications of enhanced melt and ice discharge in a warming world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3567 (2019)
Number of pages17
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2019


  • Biogeochemistry
  • Carbon cycle
  • Cryospheric science

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