Floral growth in Antarctica is increasing due to global warming

Image showing floral growth in Antarctica (Photo credit: IN DEFENSE OF THE PLANTS)

Plants in Antarctica are growing faster due to global warming, which could represent a tipping point in the region’s changing ecosystem. Scientists have previously observed increased plant growth due to climate change in the Northern Hemisphere, but this is the first time this has been observed in southern Antarctica.

Study results:

From 2009 to 2019, Nicoletta Cannone of University of Insubria in Italy and his colleagues followed the growth of Antarctica’s only two native flowering plants, Deschampsia Antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis, at several sites on Signy Island.

The researchers then compared their results to surveys conducted over the previous 50 years and found that not only had the plants become more densely populated at the sites, but they had also grown faster each year as the climate warmed. warmed up.

Deschampsia grew as much in ten years as in fifty years from 1960 to 2009, while Colobanthus grew five times as much.

“The most novel feature of all this is not the idea that something is developing faster,” says British Antarctic Survey team member Peter Convey, “but growth seems to be accelerating.” “It’s that we think we’re approaching something that looks like a tipping point or a sea change.”

According to Matthew Davey of the Scottish Marine Science Association in Oban, UK, “The accelerated expansion is now clearly visible in the region.”

“This study provides us with the first comprehensive dataset showing how quickly and densely the plant community can grow,” he says. Although other factors, such as the decline in the fur seal population, may have encouraged plant growth, the link to global warming is clear, according to Cannone.

Temperature rises can also allow invasive species to colonize and overtake native plants, as has already been observed in alpine regions, potentially destabilizing local ecosystems and biodiversity. “If we extrapolate what we saw on Signy Island to other sites in Antarctica, we can see a similar process,” Cannon said. “This implies that the landscape and biodiversity of Antarctica can change rapidly.”

Teresa H. Sadler