CALICE Calibrating Plant Biodiversity in Glacier Ice

calice | Research

CALICE reasearch project aims to reconstruct plant biodiversity and its trend archived in Alpine glacier ice by pollen and eDNA (environmental DNA) since the last five decades. We will study the relationship between plant diversity inferred from pollen and eDNA from an ice core of the Adamello glacier and validate these estimates with historical biodiversity assessments from its catchment area to evaluate biodiversity trends and changes as well as its reasons (climatic, socio-economic by means of land use) in space and time.
This multi-disciplinary approach is innovative and, indeed, has never been used before to infer biodiversity trends from glacier ice deposits, despite a few studies on ice cores by pollen and eDNA on vegetation reconstruction already exist. The advantage of studying glaciers is that they are directly climate driven. However this case study has the potential to be applied in other glaciated areas and/or lacustrine/terrestrial deposits to evaluate biodiversity for large regions.
The Adamello glacier (Trentino - Südtirol, Lombardia) was choosen because of i) the good preservation conditions for pollen and eDNA in ice, ii) the thickness of the ice cap (270m) and iii) the expected high time resolution. Pollen and eDNA will be analyzed on a 40 m ice core extracted from the Adamello glacier. The biodiversity estimates gained by pollen analysis and eDNA will be validated by historical biodiversity assessments- mainly based on vegetation maps, aerial photos and vegetation surveys - in the catchment area of the Adamello glacier on micro-, meso- and macro-scale for the last five decades. The results will serve as a calibration data set on biodiversity for future studies such as the second step of the coring by the research consortium. Arrangements have already been made to drill the complete Adamello ice cap to retrieve a 270 m thick core which has the potential to cover a time span of about 400 years or more. This will extend the time scale and enable the evaluation of dissimilarity/similarity of modern biodiversity in relation to Late Holocene trends.