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Antarctica 'greening' due to climate change

19 Mai 2017

Salzmann ran simulations using a computer model of the Earth system, which showed that reducing Antarctica's land height would cause it to warmer quicker.

In addition to climate change, the extinction of animal species, plastic waste - there could be more of that than fish in the sea by 2050 - ash from fossil fuels and radioactive particles from nuclear bomb tests will all leave a permanent record in the planet's future rocks.

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

Moss growth has "increased by 4 or 5 times" in the past five decades, according to Tom Roland, one of the co-authors of the report. He further added, "The change had kicked in at different times depending on the location between 1950 and 1980".

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.

Those sites include three Antarctic islands - Elephant Island, Ardley Island, and Green Island - where the deepest and oldest moss banks grow.

Moss growth opens the door to other plants potentially taking root in the Antarctic - and although a lush green continent might sound inviting, researchers are concerned.

"The results of that analysis lead us to believe there will be a future "greening" of the Antarctic and a further increase in moss growth rates".

Antarctica is becoming more green, and less snowy, as the climate continues to change.

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"There is 0.34 per cent of the entire Antarctic continent that is predominantly ice-free", Dr Amesbury said.

Previous research has shown Antarctic mosses can come back to life after lying inactive under the ice for 1,500 years.

"But these vivid splashes of green in the ice white are something that we should be increasingly aware of".

"The common perception of Antarctica is it's a very white and icy place and on the whole that's absolutely correct", Amesbury said.

Antarctica has progressively grown more plant life like moss over the last 50 years.

The next steps of the research will be to see how much the mosses have extended in space, as well as in height, to see if climate change is also changing the spread of the moss throughout the peninsula.

Soil samples they took from a 400-mile area along the northern part of Antarctica peninsula showed dramatic changes in their growth patterns from last 150 years. "In short, we could see Antarctic greening to parallel well-established observations in the Arctic".

"Although there was variability within our data, the consistency of what we found across different sites was striking".

The team then analysed the cores, examining the top 20cm of each to allow the scientists to look back over 150 years and explore changes over time across a number of factors.

Antarctica 'greening' due to climate change