Thanks to climate change effects, Antarctica is turning green. Unlike what the expression might seem like, it is not a good thing at all. Global warming is turning the white landscape green. Scientists believe it is a warning sign for the planet.
Recent research about the rapid growth of the quantity of moss in the last 50 years reveals that there is a steady increase in the temperature on the Antarctic Peninsula. Matt Amesbury from the University of Exeter believes the Antarctic Peninsula will be much greener in the future if the increase in the quantity of moss continues with “increasing amounts of ice-free land from continued glacier retreat.”
According to Amesbury, even though people think of Antarctica as an extremely icy place, the research reveals that parts of the peninsula are green. Those parts are expected to get even greener in the coming years.
“Even these relatively remote ecosystems, that people might think are relatively untouched by human kind, are showing the effects of human induced climate change.”
A group of scientists analyzed the historical data of the last 150 years and had identified specific points of time when the biological activity got increased. According to Professor Dan Charman, the increase of the sensitivity of moss growth to past temperature rises means the ecosystem is going to face rapid changes due to future warming. 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.
“In short, we could see Antarctic greening to parallel well-established observations in the Arctic.”
According to Charman, it is striking to find out the kind of consistency in reports from different sites. The research findings are strikingly similar with that of the Arctic Circle at the North Pole. This study, called “Widespread biological response to rapid warming on the Antarctic Peninsula,” was published in the journal Current Biology.
The Antarctic Peninsula has plant life on only 0.3 percent of its area. The research team is now planning to study the data from thousands of years to determine how the ecosystem had been affected by climate change effects over the years. They are going to study the severity of the effect before global warming was enhanced by human activities.
According to the researchers, there are two different kinds of moss that have been growing rapidly over the years. There are species of mosses that are going more than 3 mm every year on average while they used to grow less than 1 mm annually earlier.
The researchers have taken photos of certain parts of the Antarctic Peninsula that show a surprisingly green landscape. Glaciologist Rob DeConto, who was not a part of the research, believes there are signs that Antarctica is going back in geologic time. According to DeConto, this makes sense because the planet is experiencing CO2 levels as high as it was 3 million years ago. In that era, the sea-levels were higher, and the Antarctic ice sheet was smaller.
DeConto told the Washington Post that Antarctica might go even further back in geological time if greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked. According to him, there is a possibility that the Antarctic Peninsula might get forested in the future.
“It was during the greenhouse climates of the Cretaceous and Eocene, when the continent was ice free.”
While the world looks healthier when it is greener, this is not the case for Antarctica. For the sake of the planet, the Antarctic Peninsula must contain its thick ice sheet. If Antarctica starts getting forested, it might be a perilous sign for the planet’s future.
[Featured Image by Mario Tama/Getty Images]