Macro-nutrient stoichiometry of glacier algae from the southwestern margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Christopher J Williamson*, Thomas Turpin-Jelfs, Miranda J Nicholes, Marian L Yallop, Alexandre M Anesio, Martyn Tranter

*Corresponding author for this work

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

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Glacier algae residing within the surface ice of glaciers and ice sheets play globally significant roles in biogeochemical cycling, albedo feedbacks and melt of the world’s cryosphere. Here, we present an assessment of the macro-nutrient stoichiometry of glacier algal assemblages from the southwestern Greenland Ice Sheet margin, where widespread glacier algal blooms proliferate during summer melt seasons. Samples taken during the mid-2019 ablation season revealed overall lower cellular carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) content than predicted by standard microalgal cellular content:biovolume relationships, and elevated C:N and C:P ratios in all cases, with an overall estimated C:N:P of 1,997 : 73 : 1. We interpret lower cellular macro-nutrient content and elevated C:N and C:P ratios to reflect adaptation of glacier algal assemblages to their characteristic oligotrophic surface ice environment. Such lower macro-nutrient requirements would aid the proliferation of blooms across the nutrient poor cryosphere in a warming world. Up-scaling of our observations indicated the potential for glacier algal assemblages to accumulate ~ 29 kg C km2 21 and ~ 1.2 kg N km2 within our marginal surface ice location by the mid-ablation period (early August), confirming previous modelling estimates. Whilst the long-term fate of glacier algal autochthonous production within surface ice remains unconstrained, data presented here provide insight into the possible quality of dissolved organic matter that may be released by assemblages into the surface ice environment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number673614
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2021


  • glacier algae
  • C:N:P
  • Greenland Ice Sheet
  • stoichiometry
  • supraglacial


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