Thanks to global warming, the remote continent of Antarctica is turning greener by the day.
Researchers have discovered that the rapidly growing mosses on the ice in the continent are, in fact , a result of human-induced climatic change. The mosses that used to grow 1 mm on an average in a year, are now growing as much as 3 mm.
Matthew Amesbury, the lead author of the study, commented,
People will think of Antarctica quite rightly as a very icy place, but our work shows that parts of it are green, and are likely to be getting greener.Even these relatively remote ecosystems, that people might think are relatively untouched by human kind, are showing the effects of human-induced climate change.
The study published in ‘Current Biology’ revealed that less than 1 per cent of the icy continent has plant life. However, in parts of the peninsula, the Antarctic mosses have grown on the frozen ground that usually thaws only partly during summers.
Soil samples from the 650 km area along the northern peninsula presented a dramatic growth change pattern — a first in 150 years. The study also found a four-to-five-fold increase in the amount of moss growth in this remote part of the world.
Gaciologist Rob DeConto, a reviewer for the Washington Post, added,
This is another indicator that Antarctica is moving backwards in geologic time, which makes sense, considering atmospheric CO2 levels have already risen to levels that the planet hasn’t seen since the Pliocene, three million years ago, when the Antarctic ice sheet was smaller, and sea levels were higher. If greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, Antarctica will head even further back in geologic time. Perhaps the peninsula will even become forested again someday, like it was during the greenhouse climates of the Cretaceous and Eocene, when the continent was ice free.
The moss growth is still less compared to what is happening at the Arctic, where a large scale moss growth has been captured by satellites. 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.