British scientists recently concluded thatrapid climate change leads to the fact that the snow on the shores of the southern continent of Antarctica is becoming more green. Using satellite imagery, the researchers created the first wide-format maps of microscopic blooming algae that color the coast of the continent in green. In total, the researchers counted at least 1,700 green areas. I note that the first flowering of algae in Antarctica was described by expeditions back in the 1950s and 1960s, so their ability to look impressive, contrasting with white snow, has long been known. But why are scientists concerned about the large amount of algae on the continent?
To begin with, the highest continent onthe planet is not devoid of vegetation. This may seem surprising, but plants occupy 1% of the mainland. These species survive in the extreme conditions of Antarctica, so the present flora is represented mainly by lower plants. By the way, the largest number of vegetation in Antarctica belongs to the algae family - there are approximately 700 species here. And the plains and the mainland coast conquered 100 species of lichens, 400 species of moss, 20 mushrooms and 25 liverworts. At the same time, two plants are even capable of flowering: colobanthus quito and the Antarctic meadow.
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Colobanthus whale can be easily confused with moss, butin fact, it is an evergreen plant with white and greenish five-petalled flowers, 5-8 cm long. Scientists believe that these herbaceous plants came to the continent about 10,000 years ago and all this time slowly spread throughout the continent. However, due to global warming, their growth has become much more active.
The second plant is the Antarctic meadow, veryIt is resistant to frost and grows exclusively in the land illuminated by sunlight. These plain plants look like bushes up to twenty centimeters long. I note that plant cells of the Antarctic Peninsula contain a minimum amount of moisture, so all the processes of plants in this part of the world are slowed down.
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Why did the snow turn green?
If while walking in the snow on the ground it is easy to noticeblooming of tiny organisms, it becomes much more difficult to catch the green color from the orbit against the background of a highly reflective surface. Fortunately for the research team, the Sentinel-2 spacecraft is equipped with high-precision detectors that are sensitive only in the right part of the light spectrum. During the study, scientists plotted the Antarctic Peninsula plots up towards South America. Two-thirds of them were on numerous islands dotting the coastline. In total, microscopic algae occupied an area of almost 2 square kilometers.
This means that they emit approximately 500 tons of carbon per year. This is equivalent to an emissions of 850,000 car trips in the UK, BBC News reports.
As the authors of a study published inin Nature Communications, if algae changes occur, they obviously have a devastating effect on the food chain. Although the numbers we are talking about are small on a global scale, on the Antarctic scale they are essential. The numbers are underestimated, because the Sentinel-2 system "sees" only green algae, and red and orange skips. Of course, over time, this problem will be solved.
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But what happens to Antarctica plants becauseclimate change? According to the results of scientific research, the temperature on the peninsula rose rapidly in the second half of the twentieth century, and modern climate models predict that this trend will continue in the coming decades. Many algal fields on low-lying islands could simply disappear if they completely lose snow. There are probably many types of algae, some of which will live right on top of the snowy surface, others will be a little deeper, and their number will vary depending on temperature.