Recently, British scientists concluded that rapid climate change leads to the fact that the snow on the shores of the southern continent Antarctica is becoming more green. Using satellite images, researchers have created the first large format maps of blooming microscopic algae that turn the coast of the continent in green. In General, the researchers counted no less than 1700 of green areas. I note that the first algae bloom in Antarctica has been described by the expeditions in the 1950s and 1960s, so their ability to look impressive, contrasting with the white snow, has long been known. But why are scientists concerned about the large amount of algae on the continent?
To Begin with, what's the highest continent on the planet is not devoid of vegetation. This may seem surprising, but 1% of the continent is occupied by plants. These species survive in the extreme conditions of Antarctica, so that the current flora is represented mainly lower plants. By the way, the greatest number of vegetation of Antarctica belongs to the family of algae – there are approximately 700 species. And lowland areas and the mainland coast won the 100 lichen species, 400 species of moss, fungi 20 and 25 liverworts. The two plants are even capable of flowering: Colobanthus Quito and Antarctic lugovik.
Colobanthus-Quito can easily be confused with moss, but in fact it is an evergreen plant with white and green five-petal flowers, with a length of 5-8 cm Scientists believe that these herbaceous plants came to the continent about 10,000 years ago and all this time, slowly spreading across the continent. However, due to global warming, their growth became much more active.
it looks like coloratus Quito, one of the flowering plants of Antarctica
The Second plant of the Antarctic lugovik, very resistant to frost and grows exclusively on the sunlight illuminated the land. These unsightly plants like bushes, up to twenty centimeters. Note that the cells of plants of the Antarctic Peninsula contain a minimal amount of moisture, so all processes of plants this part of the world slowed.
Antarctic lugovik – kind of herbaceous plants of the genus Lugovik of the family of Grasses
If walking in the snow on the ground easy to spot a bloom of tiny organisms, then the orbit becomes much more difficult to capture the green color on the background of the highly reflective surface. Fortunately for the team of researchers, spacecraft Sentinel-2 equipped with high precision detectors that are sensitive only to the desired portions of the light spectrum. In the study, researchers mapped the Antarctic Peninsula areas up towards South America. Two thirds of them were located on the many Islands dotting the coastline. A total of microscopic algae occupied an area of almost 2 square kilometers.
This means that they emit about 500 tons of carbon per year. This is equivalent to emissions of 850 000 trips by car in the UK, reports .
the Researchers take samples of blooming algae in Antarctica
As the authors of a study published in the journal , if the algae is changing, then they obviously have a devastating impact on the food chain. And although the numbers we are talking about small on a global scale, in the Antarctic scale are essential. The numbers are too low because the system is Sentinel-2 «sees» only green algae, and red and orange skips. Of course, over time this problem will be solved.
But what happens to the plants of Antarctica because of climate change? According to the research results, the temperature on the Peninsula rose rapidly in the second half of the twentieth century, and the modern climate models predict that this trend will continue in the coming decades. Many algal fields on low-lying Islands might just disappear if completely deprived of snow. Probably there are many species of algae, some of them will be living right on top of the snow surface, others are a little deeper, and their number will vary depending on temperature.
Snow of Antarctica turned green due to climate change
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