Antarctica turns greener as climate changes

20 May, 2017, 03:16 | Author: Oscar Goodwin
  • Antarctic moss

"Previously, we had only identified such a response in a single location at the far south of the Antarctic Peninsula, but now we know that moss banks are responding to recent climate change across the whole of the Peninsula". Unlike what the expression might seem like, it is not a good thing at all. Scientists believe it is a warning sign for the planet.

Antarctica is becoming more green, and less snowy, as the climate continues to change. Those parts are expected to get even greener in the coming years.

"The Antarctic is perhaps thought of as a very remote region, one of the last places that might be relatively untouched by humankind", Dr Amesbury said.

They looked at 150 years' worth of data and found clear "changepoints" in the last 50 years that showed the increase of moss cover.

The study says the results suggest Antarctica's ecosystems will "alter rapidly under future warming, leading to major changes in the biology and landscape of this iconic region".

Dan Charman, another co-author of the paper, said there are parallel findings with Arctic shrub growth.

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.

Previous research has shown Antarctic mosses can come back to life after lying inactive under the ice for 1,500 years. They are going to study the severity of the effect before global warming was enhanced by human activities.

Before the 1950s the moss banks would grow by about 1mm a year.

He says that has already happened in some of the sub-Antarctic islands, where non-indigenous species have been brought in accidentally on the clothing and equipment of researchers.

This is another indicator that Antarctica is moving backwards in geologic time, which makes sense, considering atmospheric Carbon dioxide levels have already risen to levels that the planet hasn't seen since the Pliocene, three million years ago, when the Antarctic ice sheet was smaller, and sea levels were higher. The average elevation in Antarctica is more than a mile above sea level. The Antarctic Peninsula has plants on only 0.3 percent of its area. If greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, Antarctica will head even further back in geologic time. According to him, there is a possibility that the Antarctic Peninsula might get forested in the future.

Those who reject basic climate science have pointed to Antarctica as evidence for their skepticism, claiming that concerns over the transformation of the Arctic because ice cover in Antarctica was growing.

Green moss and icebergs in Antarctica.


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