Mineral phosphorus drives glacier algal blooms on the Greenland Ice Sheet

Jenine McCutcheon*, Stefanie Lutz, Christopher Williamson, Joseph M. Cook, Andrew J. Tedstone, Aubry Vanderstraeten, Siobhan A. Wilson, Anthony Stockdale, Steeve Bonneville, Alexandre M. Anesio, Marian L. Yallop, James B. McQuaid, Martyn Tranter, Liane G. Benning

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (SciVal)
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Melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet is a leading cause of land-ice mass loss and cryosphere-attributed sea level rise. Blooms of pigmented glacier ice algae lower ice albedo and accelerate surface melting in the ice sheet’s southwest sector. Although glacier ice algae cause up to 13% of the surface melting in this region, the controls on bloom development remain poorly understood. Here we show a direct link between mineral phosphorus in surface ice and glacier ice algae biomass through the quantification of solid and fluid phase phosphorus reservoirs in surface habitats across the southwest ablation zone of the ice sheet. We demonstrate that nutrients from mineral dust likely drive glacier ice algal growth, and thereby identify mineral dust as a secondary control on ice sheet melting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number570
Number of pages11
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online date25 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2021


  • Biomass
  • Ecosystem
  • Eutrophication/physiology
  • Freezing
  • Geography
  • Global Warming
  • Greenland
  • Ice
  • Ice Cover
  • Microalgae/cytology
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Minerals/metabolism
  • Phosphorus/metabolism
  • Seasons


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