This article is over 5 years old and may contain outdated information.


Study shows Antarctic Peninsula is greening at an unprecedented rate

Microbes and mosses have demonstrated rapid growth in the last 50 years

  • May 24, 2017
  • 325 words
  • 2 minutes
Antarctic greening, Antarctic Peninsula, climate change Expand Image

Changes in the flora and fauna of the Arctic polar region as a result of global warming have been well-documented in recent years, but as a recently published study shows, the Antarctic Peninsula is also showing a greener palette.

Researchers from the University of Exeter in the U.K., continuing work begun in 2013 to examine the growth rates of 150-year-old mosses and microbes in the Antarctic Peninsula, found that the last 50 years in particular have seen a rapid change in these organisms. 

The mosses and microbes under study respond to warmer temperatures with increased growth, and rising temperatures in the Antarctic Peninsula have caused them to grow faster than ever before. 

“If this continues, and with increasing amounts of ice-free land from continued glacier retreat, the Antarctic Peninsula will be a much greener place in the future,” says Dan Charman, the study’s lead researcher.

To Canadian researchers, this is a familiar story. Last year, NASA released a map showing the progressive “greening” of the Arctic through 29 years of satellite images, and a Yukon-based biologist has discovered evidence that beavers may be migrating onto the tundra as woody shrubs gain a foothold there. 

And, as this slow march of shrubs and greenery onto the tundra continues, botanists are working on a catalogue of existing Arctic flora to better understand how they might change and adapt. 

As for our polar opposite, researchers from the Antarctic Peninsula study say they will now examine microbes and mosses dating back thousands of years to measure the impacts of climate change before the advent of humans and industrialization. 

Expand Image
NASA compiled 29 years of satellite data to create this map showing the greening of the North American Arctic over time. Green pixels represent areas where peak summertime vegetation has become thicker, while brown pixels indicate a decline in vegetation. (Map: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre/Cindy Starr)

Are you passionate about Canadian geography?

You can support Canadian Geographic in 3 ways:

Related Content

Ten years after the release of her seminal book Sea Sick, Alanna Mitchell again plumbs the depths of the latest research on the health of the world’s oceans — and comes up gasping


“There’s no coming back from this:” Why the global ocean crisis threatens us all

Ten years after the release of her seminal book Sea Sick, Alanna Mitchell again plumbs the depths of the latest research on the health of the world’s oceans — and comes up gasping

  • 4426 words
  • 18 minutes


Map shows climate change is greening the Arctic

NASA has produced the most detailed picture to date of…

  • 214 words
  • 1 minutes
Shelley Ball with a chinstrap penguin in Antarctica

Science & Tech

How the Homeward Bound expedition program is empowering women in science

As a biologist and photographer, I had long hoped to visit Antarctica — but this journey was much more than a travel dream fulfilled

  • 1126 words
  • 5 minutes
leather sea stars


“We did this:” Is there a way out of our intertwined climate and biodiversity crises?

As the impacts of global warming become increasingly evident, the connections to biodiversity loss are hard to ignore. Can this fall’s two key international climate conferences point us to a nature-positive future?

  • 5595 words
  • 23 minutes