FAQs about Permafrost

8. Can bacteria hibernating for millions of years in permafrost be activated?

In permafrost soils there are various types of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, which have survived for millions of years in hibernation. Dark, oxygen-free, and extremely cold environments make this happen.

It has been calculated that in the northern hemisphere, permafrost has an area of 23 million km2, which makes it difficult to know the number of microorganisms that have survived under its soils. Scientists estimate that less than 1% of these microorganisms have been identified.

According to BBC “In Siberia, giant viruses -which can be seen under an ordinary microscope- have been found for diseases from the 18th and 19th centuries. The temperature in the Arctic Circle is increasing approximately three times faster than in the rest of the world. As the ice and permafrost melt, other infectious agents can be released.”

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