Navigation Links
Shrubs lend an insight into a glacier's past

The stems of shrubs have given researchers a window into a glacier's past, potentially allowing them to more accurately assess how they're set to change in the future.

Their findings have been published today, 27 November, in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters, and show how a glacier's history of melting can be extended way past the instrumental record.

Much like the rings on a tree stump indicate how old it is, measuring the width of rings on the stem of a shrub can give a good indication of how well it has grown year on year. Under extreme environmental conditions, such as those close to a glacier, a shrub's growth relies heavily on summer temperatures, meaning the ring-width of a shrub can be used a proxy for glacial melting, which also relies heavily on summer temperatures.

Lead author of the study, Allan Buras, said: "In warm summers, shrubs grow more compared to cold summers. In contrast, a glacier's summer mass balance is more negative in warm summers, meaning there is more melting compared to cold summers.

"Big rings in shrubs therefore indicate comparably warm summers, and thus a strongly negative summer mass balance in other words, more melting."

The researchers, from the University of Greifswald, tested this theory on a local icecap in the Scandic Mountains of southern Norway. They took 24 samples of shrubs from a site close to the glacier and analysed their ring-widths.

Monthly precipitation and temperature data from a local climate station were retrieved from the Norwegian Meteorological Office, and the summer mass balance of the glacier, from 1963 to 2010, was retrieved from the existing literature.

Each of these data sets was then statistically tested to see if there was a correlation between them. The results showed a robust and reliable correlation between the ring-width of shrubs and the summer melting of the glacier.

"Our results show that it is possible to reconstruct glacier summer mass balance with shrub ring-width series and it is therefore theoretically possible to extent records of summer mass balance into the past," Buras continued.

The shrubs that were collected in the study were relatively young, only allowing for reliable reconstructions over the past 36 years, meaning they could not be used to extend the record of the glacier; however, the researchers are confident that this could have been achieved if longer-lived shrubs were selected.

Most of the available data on the mass balance of glaciers only spans several decades and there is some data missing, mainly because most glaciers are situated in hard-to-reach arctic and alpine areas.

With the possibility to extend the instrumental records of summer mass balance, researchers may gain a better understanding of how glaciers behave in the summer, which they can use to calibrate and verify their existing models.

From Tuesday 27 November, this paper can be downloaded from


Contact: Michael Bishop
Institute of Physics

Related biology news :

1. New insights into cloud formation
2. Research on flavanols and procyanidins provides new insights into how these phytonutrients may positively impact human health
3. New insight into mechanisms behind autoimmune diseases suggests a potential therapy
4. Discovery offers insight into treating viral stomach flu
5. Fine-scale analysis of the human brain yields insight into its distinctive composition
6. Chimpanzee ground nests offer new insight into our ancestors descent from the trees
7. Battle of the sexes offers evolutionary insights
8. Analysis of speed of Greenland glaciers gives new insight for rising sea level
9. Mice with big brains provide insight into brain regeneration and developmental disorders
10. Maps of Miscanthus genome offer insight into grass evolution
11. Songbirds learning hub in brain offers insight into motor control
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... ANN ARBOR, Mich. , Oct. 29, 2015 ... with Eurofins Genomics for U.S. distribution of its ... DNA-seq kit and Rubicon,s new ThruPLEX Plasma-seq ... DNA to enable the preparation of NGS libraries ... in plasma for diagnostic and prognostic applications in ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... NEW YORK , Oct. 27, 2015 ... the major issues of concern for various industry verticals ... This is due to the growing demand for secure ... practices in various ,sectors, such as hacking of bank ... concerns for electronic equipment such as PC,s, laptops, and ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... PALO ALTO, Calif. and LAS ... – Nok Nok Labs , an innovator in ... FIDO Alliance , today announced the launch of its ... the first unified platform enabling organizations to use standards-based ... authentication. The Nok Nok S3 Authentication Suite is ideal ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... DIEGO , Nov. 24, 2015 Halozyme Therapeutics, Inc. ... Healthcare Conference in New York on Wednesday, ... Helen Torley , president and CEO, will provide a corporate ... New York at 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT ... and investor relations, will provide a corporate overview. --> ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015  Clintrax Global, Inc., a worldwide ... Carolina , today announced that the company has set a ... a 391% quarter on quarter growth posted for Q3 of 2014 ... and Mexico , with the establishment of ... December 2015. --> United Kingdom and ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... November 24, 2015 --> ... research report released by Transparency Market Research, the global ... a CAGR of 17.5% during the period between 2014 ... - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Volume, Share, Growth, Trends ... prenatal testing market to reach a valuation of US$2.38 ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 24, 2015 , ... InSphero AG, the leading supplier of easy-to-use solutions for ... Aregger to serve as Chief Operating Officer. , Having joined InSphero in ... and was promoted to Head of InSphero Diagnostics in 2014. There she ...
Breaking Biology Technology: