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Remote sensing reveals Antarctic green snow algae as important terrestrial carbon sink.

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We present the first estimate of green snow algae community biomass and distribution along the Antarctic Peninsula. Sentinel 2 imagery supported by two field campaigns revealed 1679 snow algae blooms, seasonally covering 1.95 × 106 m2 and equating to 1.3 × 103 tonnes total dry biomass. Ecosystem range is limited to areas with average positive summer temperatures, and distribution strongly influenced by marine nutrient inputs, with 60% of blooms less than 5 km from a penguin colony. A warming Antarctica may lose a majority of the 62% of blooms occupying small, low-lying islands with no high ground for range expansion. However, bloom area and elevation were observed to increase at lower latitudes, suggesting that parallel expansion of bloom area on larger landmasses, close to bird or seal colonies, is likely. This increase is predicted to outweigh biomass lost from small islands, resulting in a net increase in snow algae extent and biomass as the Peninsula warms.



Animal Distribution, Animals, Antarctic Regions, Biomass, Birds, Carbon, Carbon Sequestration, Chlorophyta, Ecosystem, Eutrophication, Islands, Remote Sensing Technology, Seals, Earless, Seasons, Spheniscidae

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Nat Commun

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
British Antarctic Survey (BAS) (4060169685)
Leverhulme Trust (RPG-2017-077)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/I013164/1)
The research expeditions were funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Grant (RPG-2017-077) and supported by the NERC British Antarctic Survey and the Chilean Antarctic Institute INACH. We thank staff at the Rothera Research Station, Antarctica, especially the Bonner laboratory manager Alison Massey and boating staff (Ritchie Southerton, Zac Priestley, Zoe Waring) and staff at King George Island Escudero Base (Elias Barticevic and César Cárdenas Alarcón). M.P.D, M.K and A.G were supported by the Leverhulme Trust Research Grant (RPG-2017-077). L.S.P, P.C, P.F are supported by NERC core funding to the BAS ‘Biodiversity, Evolution and Adaptation’ Team and MAGIC. The NERC Field Spectroscopy Facility (loans 765.0617 and 796.0618) Homeward Bound Expeditions (Hannah Laeverenz Schlogelhofer, Daisy Hessenberger, Katherine R. Duncan), Tamara Contador (University of Magallanes) and Edgardo Vega (INACH) for snow algae sightings, Macarena Henriquez (AGUNSA) for assistance and logistic support, and Jorge González Aravena (INACH) for freeze drying samples.