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.
- Carbon cycle
- Cryospheric science