Vegetation has grown faster and faster in Antarctica in recent decades under climate change. According to a study that this vast white continent could become increasingly green.
Few plants live on this peninsula but the study of mosses growing on the shores of the Antarctic Ocean shows a very marked increase in biological activity over the last fifty years, stressed the scientists whose work is presented in the American journal Current Biology . They analyzed five cores collected in layers of foam which is preserved for a very long time thanks to the cold.
These samples were taken at three distant sites totaling approximately 640 km in the Antarctic Peninsula on the Elephant, Ardley and Green islands, where the layers of foam are the thickest and oldest. They have traced back more than 150 years, and thus reconstructed the evolution of the climate over a long period.
Increased biological activity
Their analysis clearly shows an increase in biological activity over the last fifty years. ” The temperature has been rising since the middle of last century in Antarctica, which has a major effect on the growth of moss in the region ,” said Matt Amesbury, a researcher at Exeter’s UK University.
In fact, the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the regions with the fastest warming on the planet with a temperature rise of about 0.5 degrees Celsius per decade since the 1950s. 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 foam growth to the rise in temperature in the past suggests that alteration of ecosystems will occur rapidly with the current global warming, which will result in upheavals in the biology and landscape of this ecosystem. Emblematic region, “predicted Professor Dan Charman, director of the research project. ” We could see the Antarctic becoming more and more green as has already been observed in the Arctic ,” he said.
” If the warming continues, there will be an increased shrinkage of the glaciers and the Antarctic Peninsula will be a much greener place in the future ,” said Mr. Amesbury. These same scientists had already studied mosses in 2013 but on a single site in the south of the peninsula, where they had seen an accelerated growth of this vegetation as a result of the rise in temperature. ” We now know that these mosses are responding to the recent climate change throughout the Peninsula, ” Amesbury said.
Measuring the extent of global warming
Plant life now exists on about 0.3% of the Antarctic territory, but the study provides a way to measure the extent and effects of global warming.
These scientists now plan to analyze foam cores that can be traced back thousands of years. They should be able to determine how climate change has affected ecosystems over time, especially before human activities begin to cause the current warming, from the beginning of the industrial era to the end of the 19th century.