Antarctica is going green – not in a good way
Plant life is growing on Antarctica like never before in modern times, fueled by global warming which is melting ice and transforming the landscape from white to green.
Scientists studying moss in an area spanning 400 miles (640 kilometers) have found a sharp increase in growth over the past 50 years, said the report in the journal Current Biology.
Plant life exists on only about 0.3 percent of Antarctica.
Five moss cores — or column-like samples drilled from the Earth — showed evidence of what scientists called “changepoints,” or points in time after which biological activity clearly increased.
Areas sampled included three Antarctic islands — Elephant Island, Ardley Island, and Green Island — where the deepest and oldest moss banks grow, said the report.
The polar regions are warming more rapidly than the rest of the Earth, as greenhouse gasses from fossil fuel burning build up in the atmosphere and trap heat.
The Arctic is warming the fastest, but Antarctica is not far behind, with annual temperatures gaining almost one degree Fahrenheit (half degree Celsius) each decade since the 1950s.
“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 researcher Dan Charman, a professor at Exeter.