Antarctica to be 'much greener place' due to climate change, scientists find

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Thus, they looked at sediments from the past 150 years, studying the amount of moss, its rate of growth, the size of populations of microbes and a ratio of different forms, or isotopes, of carbon in the plants.

"The conclusions and the results that we've seen show the response of these moss banks to climate change have been pervasive across the whole of the region", Amesbury told CBC News in a phone interview.

Currently, plant life is 0.3% in what used to be a state dominated by ice.

"Even these relatively remote ecosystems, that people might think are relatively untouched by human kind, are showing the effects of human induced climate change", Dr. Matt Amesbury from the University of Exeter said. In addition to this increase in the thermometer, Other indications of climate change in Antarctica have been identified as an increase in precipitation and stronger winds.

"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.

The scientists analysed data for the last 150 years, and found clear evidence of "changepoints" - points in time after which biological activity clearly increased - in the past 50 years.

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The next step, the researchers say, is to study cores from the oldest moss banks in the region - believed to date back 5,000 to 6,000 years.

Average annual temperatures on the peninsula - the panhandle that points toward South America - have gone up almost 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) since the 1950s, when researchers started keeping detailed weather records.

"I wondered why some of the reasons to explain Arctic warming have not yet caused strongly amplified warming in all of Antarctica as well", said Marc Salzmann, the author of the study published in the journal Earth System Dynamics. This new paper reports from three more sites, stretching from the very northern Elephant Island to Lazarev Bay. "We could see the Antarctic becoming more and more green as has already been observed in the Arctic", he said.

Plant life only exists on about 0.3 percent of Antarctica according to the scientific team who now plan to examine core records dating back over thousands of years to test how much climate change affected ecosystems before human activity became a factor. [Image by Mario Tama/Getty Images] The researchers have taken photos of certain parts of the Antarctic Peninsula that show a surprisingly green landscape.

"Even these relatively remote ecosystems show a effect of anthropogenic climate change", said one of the researchers, Matthew Amesbury.

The change is because of warming temperatures, the scientists say.