Climate change threatens to melt the glaciers of the Tibetan plateau.
REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, JAKARTA – About a thousand different species of bacteria have been found on the glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau. Hundreds of them are new bacteria in the world of science.
This latest discovery raises new concerns about the possible release of the virus into the world’s two most populous countries. Because climate change is threatening this priceless environment.
According to a study published in the journal natural biotechnologyBetween 2016 and 2020, researchers from the University of Chinese Academy of Science collected surface snow, ice and other samples from 21 Tibetan glaciers. They found 968 species of bacteria, about 82 percent of which had never been identified before.
Initially, it was believed that the glaciers were too hard to support the diverse species. However, recent research has proven that this is not true.
The researchers described a series of viruses in glacial ice that are 15,000 years old and unlike anything they had ever seen. The largest source of fresh water on earth, glaciers and ice sheets cover about 10 percent of the earth’s surface. Understanding the bacteria that live here is far more important than just being scientifically interesting.
The authors of the new study are concerned about how warmer temperatures caused by climate change are melting the Tibetan Plateau’s glaciers faster and faster.
They fear many of the microorganisms that have thrived on the Tibetan plateau for thousands of years and will soon be swept downstream by melting glacial waters will find a new home.
“Modern and ancient pathogenic microbes trapped in ice can cause local epidemics and even pandemics. These microorganisms can carry novel virulence factors that make plants, animals and humans susceptible,” the study said. ILFScience.
“In addition, virulence factors can be transmitted horizontally in microbial communities via cell genetic elements. Interactions between glaciers and modern microorganisms can be very dangerous and the potential health risks need to be assessed.”
The Tibetan Plateau sits in an important but vulnerable place on the planet. This position made the situation even worse. The Tibetan Plateau is the source of some of the world’s greatest rivers, including the Yangtze, Yellow, Ganges and Brahmaputra, and has been dubbed the “Water Tower of Asia”. It could be devastating if disease-causing microbes establish themselves here.
“The release of potentially harmful bacteria could affect two of the world’s most populous countries: China and India,” the study authors added.
For now, this is just a very early warning. However, the researchers believe their latest findings underscore the urgent need to assess the potential health hazards associated with melting glaciers.
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