MELTING glaciers are speeding up climate change by fuelling freshwater fungi, according to new research.

The aquatic organisms rot leaves, wood and grass releasing carbon dioxide into the air.

A British-led international team identified the phenomenon in 57 rivers in six mountain ranges across the world.

Lead author Sarah Fell, from Leeds University, said: “We found increases in the rate of organic matter decomposition in mountain rivers.

“It can then be expected to lead to more carbon release to the atmosphere. This is an unexpected form of climate feedback.”

The team included co-author Prof Alex Dumbrell, whose Essex University lab staff analysed the fungi from the river samples.

It’s the first time glaciers have been linked with higher rates of plant decomposition - a key part of the carbon cycle.