News / Science & Technology

    Antarctica Shows Unprecedented Ecological Change

    Researchers sampled this location on the northwest coast of Alexander Island on the Antarctic Peninsula to discover unprecedented growth rates in the vegetation. (British Antarctic Survey)
    Researchers sampled this location on the northwest coast of Alexander Island on the Antarctic Peninsula to discover unprecedented growth rates in the vegetation. (British Antarctic Survey)
    Rosanne Skirble
    The rugged mountain peninsula that juts from the west coast of Antarctica is one of most rapidly warming places on the planet. 

    With increases as much as 3 degrees Celsius, the once stable sea ice is melting, setting in motion unprecedented ecological changed reported this week in Cell Biology.

    Lead author Jessica Royles studies moss in the snow-free zones of the Antarctic Peninsula. She’s a biologist with Cambridge University and the British Antarctic Survey, the organization charged with Britain’s scientific work in Antarctica. 

    “The moss is really the dominant plant growing in this area, and it accumulates in these moss banks from when the moss starts growing up to the present day," she said, "so it can provide a really good record of changes in the past that have been preserved in the moss.”

    • Antarctica is the southernmost continent on Earth. The Antarctic Peninsula on the west coast is warming at unprecedented rates. (NASA map Robert Simmon)
    • British Antarctic Survey scientists Dominic Hodson and Jessica Royles work with core sampling equipment on a high elevation moss bank on Elephant Island, South Shetland Islands. (Dan Charman/Matt Amesbury)
    • Core head being carefully removed from a moss bank on Elephant Island, South Shetland Islands. (Dan Charman/Matt Amesbury)
    • Frozen moss core over 500 years old removed from core head, Elephant Island, South Shetland Islands. (Dan Charman/Matt Amesbury)
    • Low-lying moss growth on Ardley Island, South Shetland Islands makes the most of the occasional sunny days after the snow cover has melted. (Dan Charman/Matt Amesbury)
    • Deep exposed moss bank, Elephant Island , South Shetland Islands built up over thousands of years, preserves information about the environment at the time of growth. (Dan Charman/Matt Amesbury)
    • The moss banks on Green Island provide a vivid green splash amidst the surrounding ice caps, glaciers and icebergs. (Dan Charman/Matt Amesbury)
    • Researchers on Green Island, Berthelot Islands, camped below the moss have blue-eyed cormorants and the calving icebergs just offshore as their only companions. (Dan Charman/Matt Amesbury)
    • Close up of Polytrichum strictum growing on a moss bank on Green Island, Berthelot Islands 2013. (Dan Charman/Matt Amesbury)
    • Barrientos Island, South Shetland, with a thin covering of moss and algae in 2012, that a year later was covered with snow with barely any green growth. (Dan Charman/Matt Amesbury)
    • Campsite on Barrientos Island, South Shetland Islands, sharing beach with penguin colony, 2012. (Dan Charman/Matt Amesbury)


    Biologist Jessica Royles on Antarctica ecological changes
    Biologist Jessica Royles on Antarctica ecological changes i
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    The scientists extracted moss cores from this remote and largely inaccessible region and calculated growth rates,  examined the conditions for growth and described how the microbial populations have changed.

    “What we found is that (the moss) started growing around the year 1860. And it has been growing and accumulating throughout the period up to the present day," Royles said. "But it’s around 1960, the growth rate really rapidly increased, up to a maximum of between five and six millimeters a year.”  

    Microbes in the moss also multiplied rapidly over the same time frame. Royles attributes the ecological change to warmer temperatures, increased rainfall and stronger winds. 

    “It’s showing us that really that both the plants and the microbes are really very sensitive to the climate changes that have happened over the last 50 years and that over the time that this moss bank has been growing that those changes are unprecedented.”
    This peat moss formation (Polytrichum strictum) was found in ice-free patches on the Antarctic Peninsula. (Credit: British Antarctic Survey)This peat moss formation (Polytrichum strictum) was found in ice-free patches on the Antarctic Peninsula. (Credit: British Antarctic Survey)
    x
    This peat moss formation (Polytrichum strictum) was found in ice-free patches on the Antarctic Peninsula. (Credit: British Antarctic Survey)
    This peat moss formation (Polytrichum strictum) was found in ice-free patches on the Antarctic Peninsula. (Credit: British Antarctic Survey)

    Farther north on the Antarctic Peninsula, Royles continues her analysis of moss banks that date back more than 5,000 years.

    “So we can now use those moss banks as paleo-archives of past changes in the environment and how they might have occurred, and every little bit of understanding of how those physical climate changes [might have occurred] and the biological responses to that adds to our understanding of our climate system.”       

    Royles says a scenario in which the polar flora and fauna track the projected warmer temperatures would fundamentally change the ecology and appearance of Antarctica.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: bob from: Canada
    August 31, 2013 7:58 PM
    Next you will be telling me that Al Gore and his cronies are lying??

    gotta love Corporate America..

    Time to BUILD GUILLOTINES

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.