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© Matt Amesbury

Study: global warming ‘greening’ Antarctica

19/05/17Environment

A team of UK scientists have demonstrated that an increase in plant life on Antarctica is due to climate change.

The team from the University of Exeter investigated five moss bank cores from three sites across an area spanning around 400 miles, all of which were well preserved thanks to Antarctica’s icy conditions. They found that a sharp increase in biological activity has occurred across the Antarctic Peninsula over the last 50 years.

As well as showing that greening has occurred over the last 50 years, the research also suggested that with only modest further warming, plants and soils will change substantially. Professor Dan Charman, who led the research at the University of Exeter – in conjunction with the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey – 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 to parallel well-established observations in the Arctic.”

Plant life covers only around 0.3% of Antarctica, which limits the possibilities for study, but Charman said that his results were nevertheless persuasive: “Although there was variability within our data, the consistency of what we found across different sites was striking.”

The study is published in the journal Current Biology.

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