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

Authors Organisations
  • Aviaja L. Hauptmann(Author)
    Technical University of Denmark
    University of Greenland
  • Thomas Sicheritz-Pontén(Author)
    Technical University of Denmark
  • Karen Cameron(Author)
  • Jacob Bælum(Author)
    Chr. Hansen
  • Damian R. Pilchta(Author)
  • Marlene Dalgaard(Author)
    Technical University of Denmark
  • Marek Stibal(Author)
    Charles University in Prague
Type Article
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2017
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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


  • metagenomics, cryosphere, contamination, Greenland ice sheet, microbial ecology