Antarctica began to rapidly become covered with moss

Alan Olson
May 20, 2017

"Between 1950 and 2000 in the Antarctic Peninsula, temperatures increased by half a degree per decade on average", said Dr Amesbury, of Exeter University.

'In short, we could see Antarctic greening to parallel well-established observations in the Arctic.

The microscopic evidence showed that all proxies changed dramatically over the last half century: carbon isotope discrimination, microbial productivity, moss bank vertical growth, and mass accumulation.

A study published today in the journal Current Biology examined moss found along the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

According to Professor Dan Charman, the increase of the sensitivity of moss growth to past temperature rises means the ecosystem is going to face rapid changes due to future warming.

"What that result suggests to us is in the future if this warming continues there will be what we've called a greening of the Antarctic Peninsula", Amesbury said.

Do not be fooled, although stunning in its own right, these rolling green hills are what we could come to expect when we reference Antarctica from now on.

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Amesbury said that made them "a record of changes over time".

Plant life on Antarctica is scarce, existing on only 0.3% of the continent, but moss, well preserved in chilly sediments, offers scientists a way of exploring how plants have responded to such changes.

This offers scientists a way of exploring how plants have responded to such changes. "Certainly, Antarctica has not always been the ice place it has been now on very long timescales".

"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.

With global warming acting up more and more, the effects are starting to show.

The research teams, which included scientists from the University of Cambridge and British Antarctic Survey, say their data indicates that plants and soils will change substantially even with only modest further warming. "For a while, Antarctica has been cited as an example of a place which may contradict total warming theory; in this context we understand better, it's a piece of the puzzle to understanding why Antarctica hasn't warmed so much". The globe experienced its second warmest April in recorded history, second only to a year ago, and sea ice cover in both the Arctic and Antarctic is near record lows, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced yesterday. The Antarctic Peninsula has plants on only 0.3 percent of its area. That's tied for the lowest ever recorded, with April 2016.

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