Antarctica experiencing rapid plant growth due to climate change

Brittany A. Roston - May 19, 2017
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Antarctica experiencing rapid plant growth due to climate change

Climate change is fueling a relatively rapid increase in plant growth in Antarctica, where researchers have observed ‘major biological changes’ over the last handful of decades. According to University of Exeter researchers, increasing temperatures have resulted in more rapid moss growth in the icy region, something facilitated by a mixture of warming temperatures as well as increased moisture and wind.

Antarctica isn’t known for plants — in fact, it is mostly a barren landscape of ice and more ice. Increased temperatures fueled by human activities, however, have resulted in ice loss and an environment that is slightly more hospitable to plants. Researchers were able to determine the effects climate change has on moss by looking at samples of moss bank cores.

Warming temperatures over the past 50 years have resulted in notable ‘change points’ in these cores that point toward increased biological activity. This further indicates that moss is quite sensitive to such temperature increases and that expected future warming could further fuel additional growth. The observed effects on moss were consistent across various sample sites.

Talking about the findings, University of Exeter’s Dr. Matt Amesbury said:

Temperature increases over roughly the past half century on the Antarctic Peninsula have had a dramatic effect on moss banks growing in the region. If this continues, and with increasing amounts of ice-free land from continued glacier retreat, the Antarctic Peninsula will be a much greener place in the future.

Overall, the study finds that it may only take a small bit of further warming in the future to cause major changes to Antarctica’s landscape.

SOURCE: University of Exeter


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