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Zoo Antarctic moss?

Over the last fifty years, the amount and degree of Antarctic vegetation has grown considerably. The moss is now four to five times more than half a century ago. And as scientists predict, continued warming of the continent as a result of climate change will lead to further greening. Guardian reports.

Distant, inhospitable and still untouched by humans. So most of us are aware of Antarctica. As it turns out, these facts have their relative dimension. An example may be an unprecedented biological activity that gradually turns white the country. "Of course, Antarctica will not become completely green, but it will definitely be greener than it is now," says Matt Amesbury, a researcher at the University of Exeter.

The focus of this process is primarily on the Antarctic peninsula, which is without a stable ice cover. Along with how other Antarctic areas get rid of ice, rugged mosses spread from this site. "And moss, though it does not seem to be, is a very good colonizer in these locations," Amesbury adds.

The vegetation cover is still a very rare phenomenon in Antarctica: plants are now only visible at about 0.3% of the total area. Physically, however, mosses are present much more, stored in frozen soil. Only warm up is needed, and they immediately engage in relaxed places. And since the average temperature has risen by about half a degree every decade, the moss is growing.

For Arctic scientists, plant scientists and climatologists, Antarctica is the ideal "natural" laboratory to respond to the burning questions of the consequences of global warming on the coldest places on earth. The source of answers is, for example, soil samples obtained by drilling columns of frozen soil from three islands around the Antarctic Peninsula.

It reflects the centuries of local history (twenty centimeters of the soil probe is equivalent to 150 years), the cold period when the ice sheet is released, and the associated moss growth. Drilling probes also reveal how communities of soil microbes or isotopes of elements influenced the local nutrient cycle, depending on the vegetation cover. "Temperature naturally plays a crucial role," says Amesbury. "It decides, for example, when the spring melting period will begin or how long the growing season will be."

Additionally, according to Exeter researchers, Antarctica faces another problem: the penetration of non-native and invasive species. "Together with warming and increasing numbers of visitors, the risk of introducing non-native species to the continent is even higher," says Thimas Roland, who also contributed to the research. "The specific likelihood of such a phenomenon remains uncertain, but it is still a very real threat, and this situation could really transform the face of the continent that is still largely untouched."

Author: Radomír Dohnal

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