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New ecosystems with potential

die Study, which has just been published in the journal “Nature”, claims to provide the most accurate forecast of future glacier retreat to date. It contains two thirds of all the glaciers worldwide, only those of Antarctica and the Greenland ice sheet are missing.

Maximum glacier loss by area in Germany

A research team from France and Switzerland calculated the global loss of glacier area in 2100. To do this, they provided a glacier model with data on the climate, surface conditions and glacier boundaries today. The result: Until 2040, the melting projections are very similar, regardless of greenhouse gas emissions – after that, the decline in glacier area is directly dependent on them.

With zero emissions by mid-century – the most optimistic scenario – glacier retreat could include 150,000 square kilometers, about twice the area of ​​Austria. in the above broadcasting scenario According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that means with a planet around four and a half degrees Celsius, even 340,000 square kilometers of glacial ice could disappear by the end of the century – about the area of ​​Germany. Half of the current glacier area would be lost – in Central Europe including Austria even 95 percent.

withdrawal for some species

For many animals, the great meltdown means a drastic loss of habitat. About a flying stone with a catchy name Andi pearl willinki, who can live in the ice with the help of his own antifreeze, is affected. In the local Alps, for example, this affects many invertebrates such as stoneflies or flatworms, which are an important source of food for higher animals – fish, birds, mammals. In general, nonetheless, the areas freed from the ice are never lost in nature: new ecosystems will form there over long periods of time – up to thousands of years. In the study, experts model the climatic conditions that life will have to adapt to.

Therefore, it will remain cold in Greenland without glaciers, arctic Canada and the Asian mountains, with average annual temperatures between minus 20 and 0 degrees Celsius. According to the work, areas with these conditions could serve as refuges for plants and animals that need cold in the future. For example, endangered Pacific salmon may migrate to these areas because climate change is causing them to become too warm elsewhere. In any case, the proportion of non-native animals could increase.

potential as carbon sink

According to the research work, nonetheless, it will be significantly warmer in the glacier areas of Iceland, New Zealand and the Andes that will be lost in the future, with the average temperature moving into the double digit range. This mild climate would allow pioneer plants – the first settlers – and low demand species to establish themselves. In areas “deglaciated” below the tree line, as will be the case in New Zealand, for example, forests can form relatively quickly – which, according to the study, could compensate for some of the deforestation in other regions of the world .

Jean-Baptiste Bosson, AsterCEN74

Pioneer plant (flower) after glacial retreat on Mont Blanc

According to him, the released soils will probably also serve as carbon sinks. Carbon is tied up in natural processes that occur after melting, for example in the formation of soil, the accumulation of sediment in water and also in the growth of plants. Experts estimate the earth’s storage potential at about 65 million tons of carbon – this corresponds to about 10,000 square kilometers of rainforest, about as much as is destroyed every year in the Amazon region alone.

The protection of glacier areas is very important

They advocate for the greatest possible protection of the existing glaciers as well as those of the future post-glacial areas so that their potential can be used and nature can have its retreat. Only 30 percent of them are currently protected worldwide. Since these regions are not yet crossed by human infrastructure, protection is relatively simple and inexpensive.

Experts warn against unsustainable use if the areas should be found out economically – for example for ski areas or mining. “Most ecosystems are used beyond their capacity. These common protections are urgent to avoid irreversible damage,” the study said. In this regard, the United Nations has 2025 International Year of Glacier Protection explain

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