Contamination of the Arctic reflected in microbial metagenomes from the Greenland ice sheet: Letter

Aviaja Zenia Edna Lyberth Hauptmann, Thomas Sicheritz-Pontén, Karen A. Cameron, Jacob Bælum, Damian Rafal Plichta, Marlene Danner Dalgaard, Marek Stibal

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Globally emitted contaminants accumulate in the Arctic and are stored in the frozen environments of the cryosphere. Climate change influences the release of these contaminants through elevated melt rates, resulting in increased contamination locally. Our understanding of how biological processes interact with contamination in the Arctic is limited. Through shotgun metagenomic data and binned genomes from metagenomes we show that microbial communities, sampled from multiple surface ice locations on the Greenland ice sheet, have the potential for resistance to and degradation of contaminants. The microbial potential to degrade anthropogenic contaminants, such as toxic and persistent polychlorinated biphenyls, was found to be spatially variable and not limited to regions close to human activities. Binned genomes showed close resemblance to microorganisms isolated from contaminated habitats. These results indicate that, from a microbiological perspective, the Greenland ice sheet cannot be seen as a pristine environment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number074019
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number7
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Metagenomics
  • Cryosphere
  • Contamination
  • Greenland ice sheet
  • Microbial ecology


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