The color of the landscape of Antarctica is changing faster than ever. Due to climate change and rising temperatures the growth rate of seasonal mosses has been boosted.
Scientists have been studying the mosses for many, many years. By drilling deep into the layers of mosses, scientist have concluded that the growth rate has been considerable higher in the last 50 years compared to the previous 100 years.They believe the reason for this rapid growth is the rise global temperatures. The increased temperature causes Antarctica’s ice to melt creating more water for the mosses. The increased temperature and water source also creates a longer growing season for the moss.
Matthew Amesbury, a paleoclimate researcher at the University of Exeter in the U.K., 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. If this continues, and with increasing amounts of ice-free land from continued glacier retreat, the Antarctic Peninsula will be a much greener place in the future.”
Amesbury is part of a research team lead by Dan Charman of the University of Exeter. The team has taken samples from sites across the Antarctic Peninsula. They found, that until 50 years ago, the mosses only grew 1 millimeter or less per year. However, since then, the mosses have averaged 3 or more millimeters per year.
This increased growth rate of mosses could drastically change the landscape and ecosystem of Antarctica. Charman said “The sensitivity of moss growth to past temperature rises suggests that ecosystems will alter rapidly under future warming, leading to major changes in the biology and landscape of this iconic region. In short, we could see Antarctic greening parallel to well-established observations in the Arctic.”
Researchers say this is not the first time the Antarctic has been covered with green. Discoveries of fossil ferns, pines and other plants prove the South Pole was once warm and a home for many species. However, it is the first time the continent will experience change due to human negligence.
Although it is unclear as to what this means on a larger scale, the melting of the ice will open areas that were before unreachable on the continent. This will allow scientists to research areas that have never been studied before.