Antarctica Plant Life Gets Boost - from Climate Change

20 May, 2017, 03:23 | Author: Delbert Rhodes
  • Antarctic moss

The Antarctic Peninsula is undergoing a widespread transformation after a half-century of warming, fueling a "greening" at the edges of the inhospitable continent at the bottom of the world, new research concludes.

"Because we have got this wide transect now and all of the [sites examined] are showing the same response, consistently over that 1,000km transect, that makes us much more confident that it is a response to temperature change", said Amesbury.

It can now be said that Antarctica is the one of the most rapidly warming places on earth.

Scientists studying banks of moss in Antarctica have found that the quantity of moss, and the rate of plant growth, has shot up in the past 50 years, suggesting the continent may have a verdant future.

'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 Professor Dan Charman, who led the research project in Exeter.

The growth of green mosses in Antarctica in the past 50 years has shot up due to warming temperatures.

Soil samples from a 400-mile area along the northern part of the Antarctic peninsula found dramatic changes in growth patterns going back 150 years. Stretches of the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula are covered with deep, green mossy banks.

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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. The findings appear in Current Biology on May 18.

The changes in the Antarctic also parallel the greening occurring in the Arctic, according to the study.

The cores allowed the scientists to reconstruct temperature and precipitation rates in the region for the last 150 years.

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.

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. Their goal is to explore the impact of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems before humans began heating things up.

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.

"What we're also seeing concurrently with climate change are other physical processes such as glacier retreat particularly", Dr Amesbury said.

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