Antarctica ‘is turning green with new plants because of global warming’

Green Island moss bank with icebergs. SWNS
Green Island moss bank with icebergs. SWNS

The icy wasteland of Antarctica is turning green with new plant life – and it’s all due to global warming, new research has claimed.

There are still no trees on the continent – but plant life such as moss and flowering plants has begun to flourish.

Scientists have found a sharp increase in biological activity in the last 50 years.

They analysed moss bank cores, well preserved in the cold conditions, from an area spanning about 400 miles.

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They tested five from three sites and found major changes had occurred over the past five decades right across the Antarctic Peninsula.

Dr Matt Amesbury, of the University of Exeter, 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.’

Study leader Professor Dan Charman warned: ‘The sensitivity of moss growth to past temperature rises suggests 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.’

Antarctica is the coldest, most desolate place on Earth, a land of barren mountains buried beneath a two-mile thick ice cap.

But recent research has found for most of the past 100 million years, the south pole was a tropical paradise.

It was a green and beautiful place with a lot of furry mammals including possums and beavers running around. It is just in the recent geological past that it got so cold.