The international conference on polar and alpine microbiology at the GFZ ended a few days ago. More than one hundred participants from twenty countries exchanged ideas on the research fields of permafrost, glaciers and ice, aquatic ecosystems (lakes and sea) and other topics ranging to astrobiology. Co-organiser Prof. Dirk Wagner, Head of the Geomicrobiology Section and Director of the Department of Geochemistry, says: "One of the main messages that ran more or less through all the contributions is that the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent in polar and alpine ecosystems than in other areas of the Earth, leading to major changes that will further force climate change." The changes include, for example, a decrease in the reflectivity (albedo) of ice and snow surfaces, thawing permafrost and the associated release of greenhouse gases. Wagner: "So despite all the problems we are currently facing, we must not lose sight of the fight against climate change."
The organisers, including Prof. Liane G. Benning, who herself conducts research in Greenland, were particularly pleased about the high number of young researchers (41 percent of the participants). For Wagner, another insight was important: "The direct exchange between colleagues cannot be replaced by online events. There was a lot of positive feedback about how much everyone appreciates the personal exchange after the 'hot' pandemic phase."
The next International Conference on Polar and Alpine Microbiologie (PAM) is planned for 2025 in South Africa.