Moss Changes Demonstrate Impact of Global Warming in Antarctic Peninsula

Antarctic moss

Antarctic moss

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.

They analysed moss bank cores, well preserved in the cold conditions, from an area spanning about 400 miles.

Careful analysis of those five cores going back 150 years showed increased biological activity as the Peninsula has warmed in the last 50 years.

"This is another indicator that Antarctica is moving backward in geologic time - which makes sense, considering atmospheric Carbon dioxide levels have already risen to levels that the hasn't seen since the Pliocene, 3 million years ago, when the Antarctic ice sheet was smaller, and sea-levels were higher", said Rob DeConto, a glaciologist at the University of MA who was not involved in the study, according to The Washington Post. No matter where you look, moss is growing 4-5 times faster than it used to, due to the warming climate.

Dr Matt Amesbury, of the University of Exeter, said: 'Temperature increases over roughly the past half century on the Antarctic Peninsula have had a dramatic effect on moss banks growing in the region.

One of the scientist from Exeter University who took part in the study, Dr. Matt Amesbury said, "What we found were these large, dramatic changes occurring in all of our cores".

The results echo findings reported by the team in 2013 based on cores from the southernmost known moss bank, found on Alexander Island to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula.

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"I don't see too much of a problem with regional moss species", said Hodgson "and there are also two grasses that have been found". Global warming is turning the white landscape green. They are going to study the severity of the effect before global warming was enhanced by human activities.

"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", DeConto continued by email.

"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.

"The likelihood of this happening is very much an uncertainty, but remains a very real possibility, which is understandably concerning", said Thomas Roland, a co-author of the study also from the University of Exeter.

Plant life only exists on about 0.3 percent of Antarctica, but the new findings suggested "major changes in the biology and landscape of this iconic region" under future warming, according to the study.

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.

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