On warming Antarctic Peninsula, moss and microbes reveal unprecedented ecological change

By carefully analyzing a 150-year-old moss bank on the Antarctic Peninsula, researchers reporting in Current Biology describe an unprecedented rate of ecological change since the 1960s driven by warming temperatures.

The researchers looked to the Antarctic Peninsula because it is one of the most rapidly warming regions on Earth; annual temperatures there have increased by up to 0.56°C per decade since the 1950s. There they found a moss bank that has been slowly growing at the top surface and accumulating peat material since it first established in about 1860.

The researchers show that growth rates and microbial productivity have risen rapidly since the 1960s—in a manner that is unprecedented in the last 150 years—consistent with climate change, although recently it may have stalled. They add that future changes in terrestrial biota are likely to track projected temperature increases closely, and to fundamentally change the ecology and appearance of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The researchers say the findings emphasize the importance of the monitoring work being done by the British Antarctic Survey. They will now sample moss banks along the length of the western Antarctic Peninsula in an effort to expand their historical record of climate and ecological change over space and time.

Source | Phys.Org