Moss Changes Demonstrate Impact of Global Warming in Antarctic Peninsula

Audrey Hill
May 20, 2017

"The temperature has been rising since the middle of last century in Antarctica, which has a major effect on the growth of moss in the region", said Matt Amesbury, a researcher at Exeter's UK University.

Another study co-author, Tom Roland, said moss growth has increased four to five times in the past 50 years, CNN added.

The same group of researchers published a study focusing on one site in 2013 and the new research confirms that their unprecedented finding can be applied to a much larger region.

The Antarctic Peninsula, which juts out towards South America, is one of the most rapidly warming places on Earth. 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.

These "proxies" for temperature change include the vertical growth rate of the moss, how much mass it accumulates, and the amount of microbial activity - all of which tell researchers how that moss is responding to changes in temperature and water availability.

"Although there was variability within our data, the consistency of what we found across different sites was striking", said Dan Charman, another author from Exeter.

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"What that does is it frees up new ice-free land that can then be colonised by plants, particularly mosses which are very effective colonisers of new bare ground".

A team including scientists from the University of Exeter used moss bank cores - which are well preserved in Antarctica's cold conditions - from an area spanning about 400 miles. Stretches of the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula are covered with deep, green mossy banks.

Antarctica's pristine whiteness could soon be a thing of the past as climate change is giving rise to a moss that is changing the continent's color, according to a new study. No matter where you look, moss is growing 4-5 times faster than it used to, due to the warming climate. They found that the rate the mosses were growing increased hugely around the middle of the 20th Century.

"But as soon as you get above 0C, every day above 0C, every hour above 0C potentially means that there's more water available for growth, and so that increases the season".

The research teams, which included scientists from the University of Cambridge and British Antarctic Survey, say their data indicates that plants and soils will change substantially even with only modest further warming. As such, the cores act as time capsules, allowing the scientists to peer into the past and see what changes the continent has undergone. They have traced back more than 150 years, and thus reconstructed the evolution of the climate over a long period.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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