Climate change is increasingly turning Antarctica green
The mental image that most of us have of Antarctica is a marked earth gelatin, white as far as the eye can see. But according to new research it might not be the case in the future as the continent becomes more and more green in response to rising temperatures. Researchers at the University of Exeter have taken moss banks of core samples along the Antarctic Peninsula and found that biological activity has increased dramatically in the last 50 years or so.
The study follows the previous work of the team in 2013, which revealed that the warming of the periodic region causes changes in ecology which are largely unprecedented parts. However, although this study focused only on the southern part of the Antarctic Peninsula, this time the team sampled a greater number of sites and found even more consistent results at all times.
“This gives us a much clearer picture of the scale of these changes,” says Matthew Amesbury, lead author of the study. “Previously, we had identified such a response in one place at the southern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, but we now know that moss banks respond to recent climate change across the peninsula.”
The annual average temperatures rising in the region of about 0.5 ° C (0.9 ° F) every decade since the 1950s, the Antarctic peninsula is one of the fastest places on earth. To study the effect it might have on the weakness of plant life calling the continent home, the Exeter team has sampled the basic foam benches. With the deepest sections dating back 150 years, these samples have a detailed picture of biological activity during this period.
As we have seen in the previous study, this biological activity has increased rapidly in the last 50 years. But this time, five samples were taken at three sites – Elephant Island, Ardley Island and Green Island – located 600 km (373 miles). Even at this distance, the samples showed very consistent results, indicating that these changes apply to a much wider area than previously thought.
“The temperature increases in approximately the last half century in the Antarctic Peninsula have had a dramatic effect on foam banks in the region, with a rapid increase in growth and microbial activity,” said Dan Charman, lead researcher of the study. “If this continues, and with increasing amounts of land without permanent ice receding glaciers, the Antarctic Peninsula will be a much greener place in the future.”
In the future, the team plans to expand its study of foam cores for thousands of years to get a long-term picture of Antarctica’s ecology dating back to before human activity begins to have an impact on the climate.