Antarctica’s Icy Landscape Is Turning Green Due To Global Warming

Posted: May 19 2017, 10:19pm CDT | by , Updated: May 19 2017, 10:25pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Antarctica’s Icy Landscape is Turning Green Due to Global Warming
Moss covering coast of Green Island in Antarctica. Credit: Matt Amesbury.

The Antarctic Peninsula is getting greener as it continues to warm

One of the coldest parts of the world is getting greener and less icy than ever before. And this disturbing trend is blamed largely on climate change.

A team of British researchers has found that moss banks surrounding the southern part of continent have grown rapidly throughout the Antarctic Peninsula over the past 50 years. The dramatic growth of moss is causing the area to look a lot greener than usual.

“Temperature increases over roughly the past half century on the Antarctic Peninsula have had a dramatic effect on moss banks growing in the region,” said Dr Matt Amesbury, a researcher from University of Exeter.

“If this continues, and with increasing amounts of ice-free land from continued glacier retreat, the Antarctic Peninsula will be a much greener place in the future.”

To arrive at the conclusion, researchers analyzed moss banks from three sites dating back to 150 years and found clear evidence of widespread biological changes in the past half century. Researchers believe that it is the rise in temperature that is the main driver behind the excessive growth of plants in the region.

Antarctica is one of the most rapidly warming areas in the world, with about a half-degree Celsius increase in temperature each decade since the 1950s.

“People will think of Antarctica quite rightly as a very icy place, but our work shows that parts of it are green, and are likely to be getting greener,” said Matthew Amesbury, lead author of the study. “Even these relatively remote ecosystems, that people might think are relatively untouched by human kind, are showing the effects of human induced climate change.”

Moss banks in Antarctica are extremely well preserved and are spanning about 400 miles area. They can help decode Earth’s climate history. In fact, the overall plant life that covers about 0.3 percent of Antarctica can provide unique insights into the scale and rapidity of biological shifts over the years under rising warming. Researchers found mosses that once grew less than a millimeter per year are now growing over 3 millimeters per year on average.

“This is another indicator that Antarctica is moving backward in geologic time – which makes sense, considering atmospheric CO2 levels have already risen to levels that the planet hasn’t seen since the Pliocene, 3 million years ago, when the Antarctic ice sheet was smaller, and sea-levels were higher,” Rob DeConto, a glaciologist at the University of Massachusetts told The Washington Post.

“If greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, Antarctica will head even further back in geologic time.”

Next, researchers are planning to examine even older moss records to see how much climate change affected ecosystems before human activity started causing global warming.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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