Antarctica Could Turn Green As A Result Of Climate Change Making Algae Bloom


While we are seeing various marvelous examples of nature healing itself in light of human absence during the coronavirus pandemic, it doesn’t seem all environmental problems related to climate change have just magically disappeared overnight. The global scientist community still has many concerns regarding climate change. Botanists from the University of Cambridge are concerned that Antarctica could possibly turn green due to climate change causing algae to bloom.

More info: University of Cambridge

Scientists believe climate change might turn coastal Antarctica green due to blooming algae

Image credits: Matt Davey/SWNS

A team of scientists, including researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey, has created the first large-scale map of algae blooming across the surface of snow along the Antarctic Peninsula coastline. The study was recently published in the Nature Communications journal. They combined satellite data with the results of on-the-ground observations to detect and measure the green snow algae. Despite an individual alga being microscopic in size, when algae grow en masse, they turn the surface of the snow in Antarctica bright green and it can even be seen from space.

Botanists have created the first large-scale map of algal blooms in Antarctica

Image credits: Matt Davey/SWNS

They combined satellite data with on-the-ground observations

Image credits: Matt Davey/SWNS

The lead scientist of the research, Dr. Matt P. Davey of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences, said: “This is a significant advance in our understanding of land-based life on Antarctica and how it might change in the coming years as the climate warms. Snow algae are a key component of the continent’s ability to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.”

Researchers say each individual alga is microscopic, but when they grow en masse, they turn the snow green

Image credits: Matt Davey/SWNS

The areas of green snow are so big they can even be seen from space

Image credits: Matt Davey/SWNS

The majority of the green snow is found around the Antarctic coastline and on the islands located along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. They grow in warmer areas where the temperatures linger a bit above zero degrees during Antarctic summer—from November to February.

Scientists say that birds and mammals are partially to blame for the blooming algae

Image credits: Matt Davey/SWNS

Algae growth is possibly encouraged by excrement and 60% of algae blooms are found within 3.1 miles of a penguin colony

Image credits: Matt Davey/SWNS

Turns out, the growth of algae that’s turning the snow bright green is encouraged by the excrement of birds and mammals. The study states that excrement acts as a highly nutritious natural fertilizer to accelerate algal growth. Over 60% of blooms were found near a penguin colony; they were also seen growing near the nesting sites of other birds, including skuas, and areas where seals come ashore.

Dr. Matt Davey in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences explains it in this video

Image credits: Matt Davey/SWNS

Algae blooms are mainly found around the coastline of the southern continent

Image credits: Tak

“We identified 1679 separate blooms of green algae on the snow surface, which together covered an area of 1.9 km2, equating to a carbon sink of around 479 tonnes per year,” said Davey.

They mostly grow in warmer areas where the average temperatures reach above 0°C during summer months

Image credits: Tak

Scientists believe that the green snow will spread further as temperatures continue to rise

Image credits: Ronald Woan

“As Antarctica warms, we predict the overall mass of snow algae will increase, as the spread to higher ground will significantly outweigh the loss of small island patches of algae,” said Dr. Andrew Gray, lead author of the paper and a researcher at the University of Cambridge and NERC Field Spectroscopy Facility, University of Edinburgh.



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