Mineral phosphorus drives glacier algal blooms on the Greenland Ice Sheet

Jenine McCutcheon, Lutz Stefanie, 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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


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