Antarctic Has Seen Widespread Change In Last 50 Years

Terry Joseph
May 20, 2017

The Antarctic Peninsula is undergoing a widespread transformation after a half-century of warming, fueling a "greening" at the edges of the inhospitable continent at the bottom of the world, new research concludes.

"Atmospheric CO2 levels have already risen to a level which the planet has not seen since the Pliocene, i.e. more than three million years old when Antarctic ice sheets were smaller and sea level was higher", - said the specialist in study of the ice Rob Deconto from the University of MA.

"Then the next summer they thaw and grow some more", study author Matthew Amesbury of the University of Exeter told IBTimes UK. While many scientists are convinced that man-made climate change will lead to negative outcomes for the planet, others believe the last few years were warmer because of El Nino weather patterns, which are ending this year, Earth Institute of Columbia University reported.

Antarctica isn't known for plants - in fact, it is mostly a barren landscape of ice and more ice. The leader of the research project said that it would lead to critical changes in the landscape of the peninsula and to its biology as well.

University of Exeter's project lead, Professor Dan Charman, expressed that the continued rise in temperature suggests a rapid adjustment in Antarctica's ecosystem in the future.

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. They tested five cores from three sites and found major biological changes had occurred right across the Antarctic Peninsula.

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The microscopic evidence showed that all proxies changed dramatically over the last half century: carbon isotope discrimination, microbial productivity, moss bank vertical growth, and mass accumulation. The new samples included three Antarctic Islands off the peninsula.

The study published in "Current Biology" revealed that less than 1 per cent of the icy continent has plant life.

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

These scientists now plan to analyze foam cores that can be traced back thousands of years. Their goal is to explore the impact of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems before humans began heating things up.

Researchers said their data indicate that plants and soils will change substantially even with only modest further warming.

"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.

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