Antarctica is on the verge of turning green, thanks to climate change!

The scientists analysed data for the last 150 years, and found clear evidence of “changepoints” — points in time after which biological activity clearly increased — in the past half century.

By Zee Media Bureau | Last Updated: May 20, 2017, 14:40 PM IST
Antarctica is on the verge of turning green, thanks to climate change!
Image courtesy: Matt Amesbury/University of Exeter

New Delhi: Environmentalists' and scientists' concern over climate change and its effects are on another level altogether and with good reason.

Climate change is far from giving up and is causing some form of damage every other day, which scientists fear is bringing us closer to doomsday.

With 2016 being declared the hottest year and 2017 not very far from breaking that record, the dangers of global warming on the world loom larger than ever.

The massive Antarctic region serves as a measuring unit when it comes to climate change. Because of its recent resistance to the effects of warming, the region has been under constant monitoring to check for any changes – increase or decrease – in the percentage of ice.

In March this year, a UN report noted that the Antarctic region had clocked up the highest temperatures on record, thereby setting a benchmark for studying how climate change is affecting this crucial region.

Now, a new study has drawn attention to an increase in biological activity in the Antarctica in the last 50 years, saying that plant life on Antarctica is growing rapidly due to climate change.

A team, including scientists from the University of Exeter in the UK, used moss bank cores — which are well preserved in Antarctica’s cold conditions — from an area spanning about 644 km.

They tested five cores from three sites and found major biological changes had occurred over the past 50 years right across the Antarctic Peninsula. The rate of moss growth is now four to five times higher than it was pre-1950.

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

“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,” he said.

Recent climate change on the Antarctic Peninsula is well documented, with warming and other changes such as increased precipitation and wind strength. Weather records mostly began in the 1950s, but biological records preserved in moss bank cores can provide a longer-term context about climate change.

The scientists analysed data for the last 150 years, and found clear evidence of “changepoints” — points in time after which biological activity clearly increased — in the past half century.

“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,” said Professor Dan Charman, who led the research project in Exeter. “In short, we could see Antarctic greening to parallel well-established observations in the Arctic.”

Plant life only exists on about 0.3 percent of Antarctica, but the findings provide one way of measuring the extent and effects of warming on the continent. The research was published in the journal Current Biology.

(With PTI inputs)