Antarctica is greening due to global warming

19 Mai, 2017, 18:19 | Author: Come Portier
  • Antarctica's Green Island moss bank with icebergs in the background. |         Matt Amesbury

Professor Sharon Robinson, a climate change biologist at the University of Wollongong said the study by the United Kingdom researchers reaffirmed that mosses were a sensitive proxy for climate change in Antarctica.

Scientists are now considering whether to formally adopt 1950 as the start of a new geological epoch called the Anthropocene because of the astonishing global effects that modern humans are having on the Earth.

"We are likely to see moss particularly colonising new areas of ice-free land created by the warmer climate ... and particularly things like glacier retreat".

Lead researcher Matt Amesbury said the research focused on moss banks that slowly accumulate by growing a few millimetres each summer along the peninsula.

"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.

Researchers from Exeter and Cambridge universities and the British Antarctic Survey studied a 150-year period of moss growth in the Antarctic Peninsula by taking samples from the material laid down each year. Annual temperatures there have crept up about 0.5 degrees Celsius each decade since the 1950s.

Changes included the amount of moss, and its rate of growth.

Those days are probably very far off for the Antarctic, but it's clear the continent used to be a very different landscape.

"Antarctica is not going to become entirely green, but it will become more green than it now is", Amesbury added.

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We did say 'Go green, ' but this is really not what we had in mind.

Those who doubt global warming is already happening should take note.

"The common perception of Antarctica is it's a very white and icy place and on the whole that's absolutely correct", Amesbury said.

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.

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.

The next steps of the research will be to see how much the mosses have extended in space, as well as in height, to see if climate change is also changing the spread of the moss throughout the peninsula.

"Although there was variability within our data, the consistency of what we found across different sites was striking".

"Antarctica is not going to become entirely green, but it will become more green than it now is", said Matt Amesbury, co-author of the research from the University of Exeter.

The researchers now plan 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.

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