Antarctica is getting greener due to climate change, scientists say

Antarctica'greening due to climate change

Antarctica'greening due to climate change

The Arctic is warming the fastest, but Antarctica is not far behind, with annual temperatures gaining nearly one degree Fahrenheit (half degree Celsius) each decade since the 1950s.

Moss banks are generally well preserved in Antarctica's cold conditions and analysing drilled core samples from the regions can provide information about the area dating back hundreds of years.

The authors noted that the now observed moss growth changes are probably just the beginning.

The results suggest that even modest future warming could lead to further, rapid changes in Antarctica's ecosystems.

The scientists reviewed moss banks, finding that major biological changes had occurred over the past 50 years across the Antarctica Peninsula.

According to the research team, three out of five moss bank cores they tested showed major biological changes in the last half century.

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

"We looked at the last 150 years of records to try and give a bit of longer term context to well-documented and recorded changes in the Antarctic Peninsula from the 1950s onwards", he said.

A bank of moss on the appropriately named Green Island in the Antarctic.

These "proxies" for temperature change include the vertical growth rate of the moss, how much mass it accumulates, and the amount of microbial activity - all of which tell researchers how that moss is responding to changes in temperature and water availability.

The sensitivity of mosses' rate of growth in response to past temperature increases suggests that terrestrial ecosystems of the Antarctic Peninsula will continue to experience rapid change with future warming. They are going to study the severity of the effect before global warming was enhanced by human activities. What's more, the scientists warn that greening, together with increases in the number of visitors to Antarctica, could make it easier for invasive species to colonise the continent. Amerbury believes that the situation in Antarctic in far from what is happening in the Arctic but continued warming shall bring out a different landscape.

There's more to come, the researchers said.

The changes in the vegetation found on the peninsula are a reaction to warming temperatures over the years.

The researchers said they'll continue to examine core records stretching back in time over thousands of 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.

"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.

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