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Moss is Turning Antarctica’s Icy Climate Green

Thick banks of moss on the Antarctic Peninsula are an important environmental archive, preserving records of the region’s climate

Antarctica is home to ice, penguins and — thanks to climate change — rapidly increasing levels of moss, scientists say.

Moss banks, found across parts of the western Antarctic Peninsula, have grown dramatically over the past 50 years, according to a study published in the scientific journal Current Biology.

Moss growth has “increased by 4 or 5 times” in the past five decades, according to Tom Roland, one of the co-authors of the report.

Higher temperatures and less ice are “likely open up more land for the moss ecosystems to expand into,” Roland said, leading to the “‘greening’ of the Peninsula.”

“If you’d taken a photograph of these parts of the Peninsula 50 years ago it would have been a monochrome shot of ice,” Dominic Hodgson, another of the study’s co-authors, told CNN. “Nothing but glaciers.

“Today that photo would show extensive patches of green,” he noted.

Hodgson said the spreading moss is particularly surprising given the lack of light in the Peninsula.

The scientists, from Exeter University, Cambridge University, and the British Antarctic Survey, took five “cores” of moss from three separate sites on the Peninsula, allowing them to examine changes in growth across the last 150 years.

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SOURCE: CNN, Zamira Rahim