Antarctic’s Rising Temperatures Are Causing Native Plants to Flourish

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Antarctic pearlwort (pictured) , grew and spread five times faster between 2009 and 2018 than growth rates observed between 1960 and 2009 Liam Quinn via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 2.0

Warming Temperatures Are Turning Antarctica Green

by Elizabeth Gamillo/Smithsonianmag.com

Rising temperatures over Antarctica’s harsh landscape are causing two native plant species to flourish and spread across the continent. Between 2009 and 2019, plant cover has increased more than in the last 50 years combined and corresponds with rising air temperatures and declining fur seal populations, reports Phoebe Weston for the Guardian. The study published this week in Current Biology is the first to show the accelerated impacts of climate warming in polar ecosystems.

“Antarctica is acting as a canary in a coal mine,” Nicoletta Cannone, an ecologist at the University of Insubria and the study’s lead author, told Gizmodo’s Molly Taft.



Antarctic hair grass, Deschampsia Antarctica, and Antarctic pearlwort, Colobanthus quitensis, are the only two native flowering plant species on the southernmost continent. They can withstand the continent’s frigid temperature and photosynthesize at temperatures below zero while covered in snow, Cannone explained to Gizmodo.

Researchers focused their observations on these plants on Signy Island and compared them to extensive records detailing plant growth recorded since the 1960s, Gizmodo reports. The team found that the plants are flourishing in a warmer climate. Antarctic pearlwort, a small plant with yellow blossoms,read more:

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