This site use cookies to provide the best possible experience for you. By closing this message you agree to our use of cookies. Our full privacy policy is available here.
Close disclaimer
Skip to content

Does moss grow on glaciers?

A few years ago, glaciologist/speleologist Bulat Mavlyudov found moss growing in some rather unexpected places - namely glaciers. A few samples were collected and bryologist Olga Belkina identified them.

Bryologist Olga Belkina and glaciologist Bulat Mavlyudov Bryologist Olga Belkina and glaciologist Bulat Mavlyudov

The mosses were of several different species but had the same "cushion" growth form. The did not grow directly on ice, but rather on cryoconite cores consisting of fine mineral dust. In some cases the moss grew on animal bones lying atop the ice.

A cushion of Sanionia uncinata A cushion of Sanionia uncinata Detailed examination revealed differences between colonies of the same species of moss, which suggests that the glacier had been colonised repeatedly. The scientists suggested that the mosses could have been introduced to the glacier when cushions rolled down from surrounding slopes, or been transported by wind or birds. They may also have appeared on the surface when the glacier melted. Only vegetative means of reproduction are likely for these mosses: they had no reproductive structures, probably because of lack of nutrients and low temperatures.

At one site (Austre Grønfjordbreen) the same moss colony persisted for at least six years. At another site (Mittag-Lefflerbreen) Mavlyudov discovered pioneer mosses growing on a thin ring of cryoconite. This is the initial stage of primary succession and represents another type of colonization.

Colonies of Hygrohypnella polare on the ice of Austre Grønfjordbreen Colonies of Hygrohypnella polare on the ice of Austre Grønfjordbreen

Written by:
Svalbard Science Forum
 

Add new comment


Captchabilde

 
Published:
05.02.2013
Last updated:
11.02.2013