Climate & EnvironmentClimate change is transforming parts of Antarctica Green, researchers discover

    Climate change is transforming parts of Antarctica Green, researchers discover

    The research shows parts of the Antarctic Peninsula would change colour as green snow caused by blooming algae is predicted to spread faster as world temperature rises.

    The mention of ‘Antarctica’ stirs up the images of a completely white wilderness, but blooms of algae are giving portions of the frozen continent an increasingly green tinge.

    While the presence of algae in Antarctica was discovered through expeditions, like the one undertaken by British explorer Ernest Shackleton, little was known about its full extent.

    Now, using data put together by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 2 satellite for over two years, with practical observations, a research team from the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey has created the first map of the algae blooms on the Antarctic Peninsula coast.

    The New Research

    The Indian Express reports that according to a new research published on Wednesday, rising temperatures because climate change is speeding up the formation and spread of algae and it is becoming so prolific in places visible from space.

    The algal blooms in Antarctica are almost equal to the quantity of carbon emitted by 875,000 average UK petrol car journeys. 

    In Antartica green is not the only splash of colour. Researchers are now planning similar studies on orange and red algae, although this is proving harder to identify from space.

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    The research shows parts of the Antarctic Peninsula would change colour as green snow caused by blooming algae is predicted to spread faster as world temperature rises.

    Antarctica, often considered devoid of plant life, is home to several types of algae, which grow on slushy snow and suck carbon dioxide from the air.

    Also, researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey combined satellite imagery with terrestrial observations to determine the extent of green algae in Antarctica.

    Matt Davey from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Science opines that although the numbers seem relatively low on a global scale, such an amount of plant life and the resulting biomass in Antarctica, is important.

    People assume Antarctica only has snow and penguins. But carefully observing the fringe, you would find a lot of plant life.

    The research team estimated that algae around the peninsula absorb levels of CO2 similar to 875,000 car journeys.

    They also discovered birds’ excrement is a fantastic fertiliser and that most algae blooms were usually within five kilometres of a penguin colony.

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    Temperature in Antarctica is rising faster than in other parts of the earth. The team predicts low-lying coastal areas of Antarctica would soon be algae-free when they experience snow-free summers.

    But that loss would likely be compensated by a preponderance of large algae blooms as temperatures increase and snow at higher altitudes softens.

    Conversely, in the north of the peninsula we saw some really large blooms and it is expected we would observe more of these larger blooms.

    While more algae means more CO2 is absorbed, the plants could produce an insignificant but undesirable impact on local albedo.

    Whereas white snow reflects 80 percent of radiation that hits it, for green snow that figure is just about 45 percent.

    However, the team said the decreased albedo is unlikely to significantly change Antarctica’s climate.

    Also, according to Reuters, the new research published on Wednesday asserts that mosses and lichens are considered the main photosynthetic organisms in Antarctica. 

    But the new mapping found 1,679 separate algal blooms that are a major component in Antarctica’s capacity to collect carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

    Algae take up carbon from the atmosphere but that would not cause any significant change in the quantity of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere each moment.

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    The Guardian News report that scientists have identified the start of a new ecosystem on the Antarctic peninsula as microscopic algae bloom around the top of the melting snow, tinting the surface green and producing a source of nutrition for other species.

    The European team behind the research believe these blooms will expand their range in the future because global heating is creating more of the slushy conditions they need to thrive.

    According to the study, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications, in some areas, the single-cell life forms are so dense they turn the snow bright green and can be seen from space. 

    Biologists from the British Antarctic Survey and the University of Cambridge spent over 5 years detecting and measuring the green snow algae using a combination of satellite data and ground observation.

    Due to the climate crisis and potentially offering sustenance to other species, the first large-scale algae map of the peninsular, which will be used as a baseline to assess the speed at which the white continent is turning green.

    Bazezew Zerihun
    Bazezew Zerihun
    Bazezew Zerihun is the Founder, CEO & EDITOR IN CHIEF of Awutar. He lives in Bole, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. By profession, he is Blogger, Content Writer, Web Designer, and Developer. If you want to get in touch with him write via: [email protected]


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