Research

Antarctica is starting to turn green - thanks to global warming

Antarctica is starting to turn green - thanks to global warming

The Antarctic peninsula has been a site of rapid warming, with more days a year where temperatures rise above freezing.

Scientists studying moss in an area spanning 400 miles (640 kilometers) have found a sharp increase in growth over the past 50 years, said the report in the journal Current Biology.

The research team analyzed data and records from the past 150 years and noted the points in time when plant life experienced sudden growth spurts and that they coincided with a rise in the region's temperature.

Scientists took samples from moss banks to analyse moss that grew 150 years ago, right through to moss growing today.

This plant growth has been being steadily tracked over the past 50 years and reveal an unprecedented surge in new life along a 600 kilometre stretch of the Antarctica's coastline.

After examining the moss and microbes growing in the southern end of the Antarctic Peninsula over the past five decades' researchers believe there has been widespread ecological changes throughout the peninsula.

A bank of moss on the Antarctic Peninsula.

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Koljonen said the deer came in through the store's garden door, which is motion-activated, and "just walked down the aisle". Once the animal calmed down enough, the store employees used a dog leash to tie the animal.

"This gives us a much clearer idea of the scale over which these changes are occurring", said Amesbury.

A bank of moss on the appropriately named Green Island in the Antarctic. This will be done to figure out how the changes in temperature, as well as the added effects of climate change due to human activity, affect moss growth in the long term. They are going to study the severity of the effect before global warming was enhanced by human activities. He believes Antarctica will even become forested again someday as it was during the greenhouse climates of the Cretaceous and Eocene, when the continent was ice free. This runs alongside other changes including, glacier retreat and greater exposure of ice-free land.

Recent climate change on the Antarctic Peninsula is well documented, with warming and other changes such as increased precipitation and wind strength.

"The likelihood of this happening is very much an uncertainty, but remains a very real possibility, which is understandably concerning", said Thomas Roland, a co-author of the study also from the University of Exeter.

Taken together, the team say the results show that moss banks across the region are responding to warming, adding that variations in the measure of favourability for photosynthesis between sites is likely down to local differences in moisture levels.

The researchers said they'll continue to examine core records dating back over thousands of years to test how much climate change affected ecosystems before human activity started causing global warming.

"In short, we could see Antarctic greening to parallel well-established observations in the Arctic", Professor Dan Charman of the University of Exeter, who led the research project, said in a statement.


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