It’s a movie script we’ve seen over and over: A frozen beast from the past is thawed and once awakened, wreaks havoc among modern society. Interestingly, that same storyline is unfolding in real life – somewhat -- inside scientific labs, and it has an Alaskan twist.
Researchers have carted chunks of Alaska permafrost off to California, where have learned that allowing the once frozen soil to thaw wakes up hungry microbes, according to newscientist.com, which also offered a cautionary tale. Here’s an excerpt:
As the Arctic permafrost melts over the coming decades, long-frozen microorganisms will thaw out and start feasting on the soil. The first have already begun to wake up – and early signs are that they will have a major impact on how Earth's climate changes.
The article goes on to talk about how little is known about the “permafrost ecosystem,” including what the micro-mini organisms are that live there or how they interact with each other.
At a lab in Berkeley, California, researchers found that the thawed organisms at first produced a lot of methane, but then the methane levels dropped because other thawed out microbes begin feeding on the gas and converting it to carbon dioxide.