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Open AccessOpinion

Should We Not Further Study the Impact of Microbial Activity on Snow and Polar Atmospheric Chemistry?

Takuvik Joint International Laboratory, Université Laval (Canada) and CNRS-INSU (France), Québec, QC G1V 0A6, Canada
Centre d’Études Nordiques (CEN), Department of Chemistry and Department of Geography, Université Laval, Québec, QC G1V 0A6, Canada
Microorganisms 2019, 7(8), 260;
Received: 11 June 2019 / Revised: 18 July 2019 / Accepted: 19 July 2019 / Published: 14 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ice and Snow Microbiology)
Since 1999, atmospheric and snow chemists have shown that snow is a very active photochemical reactor that releases reactive gaseous species to the atmosphere including nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, aldehydes, halocarbons, carboxylic acids and mercury. Snow photochemistry therefore affects the formation of ozone, a potent greenhouse gas, and of aerosols, which affect the radiative budget of the planet and, therefore, its climate. In parallel, microbiologists have investigated microbes in snow, identified and quantified species, and sometimes discussed their nutrient supplies and metabolism, implicitly acknowledging that microbes could modify snow chemical composition. However, it is only in the past 10 years that a small number of studies have revealed that microbial activity in cold snow (< 0 °C, in the absence of significant amounts of liquid water) could lead to the release of nitrogen oxides, halocarbons, and mercury into the atmosphere. I argue here that microbes may have a significant effect on snow and atmospheric composition, especially during the polar night when photochemistry is shut off. Collaborative studies between microbiologists and snow and atmospheric chemists are needed to investigate this little-explored field. View Full-Text
Keywords: snow; chemistry; microbes; atmosphere; climate snow; chemistry; microbes; atmosphere; climate
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Domine, F. Should We Not Further Study the Impact of Microbial Activity on Snow and Polar Atmospheric Chemistry? Microorganisms 2019, 7, 260.

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