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Global Warming Is Making Antarctica a Greener Place

May 23, 2017 04:57 AM EDT
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A new study led by University of Exeter revealed that the rising temperature brought by climate change is slowly making the Antarctic Peninsula a greener place.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, showed that the moss growth and accumulation in the continent experience an upward trend in the past 50 years, from one millimeter a year to three millimeters annually.

"The sensitivity of moss growth to past temperature rises suggests that ecosystems will alter rapidly under future warming, leading to major changes in the biology and landscape of this iconic region," said lead author Dan Charman, of the University of Exeter, as per National Geographic. "In short, we could see Antarctic greening parallel to well-established observations in the Arctic."

For the study, the researchers collected moss core samples at three sites across a 400-mile swath of the Antarctic Peninsula. Due to the location of the peninsula, which is located in the northernmost portion of the Antarctic mainland, it will be one of the first areas in the continent to display evidence of shifting climate patterns.

The researchers found that the two dominant species at the moss banks grew one millimeter or less per year until about 50 years ago. However, the moss growth significantly increased since then, reaching three millimeters or more every year.

Aside from moss growth and accumulation, the researchers also observed an increase in microbial activity and carbon isotope accumulation. An upward trend of carbon isotope accumulation is a clear indication of more photosynthetic activity in the area. The researchers noted that the trend of moss growth and accumulation is consistently upward even across distant areas, suggesting that the cause of the influx in moss growth and accumulation is widely dispersed and not isolated in a single region.

Antarctica is now always been the cold, remote place it is now. Scientists have previously discovered ancient ferns, pines and ginkgoes from the Cretaceous Era, suggesting that the southernmost continent was once a welcoming place for plants and animals. Due to this, the researchers of the present study consider the greening of the Antarctic to be a step back in time.

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