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Flowers in Antarctica are starting to bloom and that is no good news

Two types of flowers have been blooming regularly in Antarctica and can be a sign of a higher speed in climate warming.

It was previously believed that Antarctica was the most inhospitable continent on the planet and therefore, life could not arise under the harshness of its climatic condition. However, it has gradually been discovered that life is capable of defying any hardship and living organisms were found on the frozen continent. A new study suggests that Antarctica is filling up with flowers and plants, news that rather than being a good thing, comes as a worrisome problem.

Two plant species capable of growing under bitterly cold conditions have been detected in Antarctica. Colobanthus and Deschampsia have previously been found to grow naturally on the continent, both species flourish amid the sub-zero temperatures and are able to successfully gestate photosynthesis. But new research suggests that their growth and spread have been undergoing alterations over the past 10 years due to high temperatures.

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Flowers in Antarctica

Nicoletta Cannone, a professor of ecology at the University of Insubria, is the lead author of this research, which focused on Signy Island, part of the Orkney Archipelago of southern Antarctica. Cannone and her team found that the population of the two plant species has been spreading more rapidly across the frozen continent.

To achieve reliable results, they took as a reference the extent of the plants since the 1960s. They then compared the historical record with data collected during the time period from 2009 to 2018. Thanks to this, they found that Coloanthus has grown at a rate three times faster than it did in the past. Deschampsia, on the other hand, is not that it has accelerated its growth, but rather that it spread to wider locations on the Antarctic continent.

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“Our hypothesis is that the surprising expansion of these plants is mainly due to the warming of the summer air,” explains Nicoletta. She further added the hypothesis that the climactic event of the strong air cooling that occurred in 2012 did not seem to influence the dynamics of the plant community on this island.

The first evidence of an accelerated ecosystem response

This would be the first evidence of accelerated ecosystem response in Antarctica that is directly associated as a consequence of global warming. “Our findings support the hypothesis that future warming will trigger significant changes in these fragile Antarctic ecosystems” warns Canonne.

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The author also explains that plants are the best indicator of ecosystem response to climate change. Unlike animals, which are able to move to other natural regions and thus adapt to new ecosystems, plants do not share this capacity and for this reason, they are the most genuine trace of what is happening in different regions of the planet.

Cannone team’s observations are congruent with what is also happening in the northern hemisphere, where greenish territories are beginning to emerge instead of snow-covered surfaces in the Arctic. The Earth is blooming at its poles and this is not necessarily good news, but it tells us about the great responsibility of humans who have been modifying the planet’s climate.

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Story originally published in Ecoosfera

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