Scientists prepare a map of Antarctica turning green due to climate change

WION Web Team
LondonUpdated: May 21, 2020, 01:17 PM IST
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Scientists have prepared a large-scale map of the algae, which will be used to assess the speed at which Antarctica is turning green and maybe providing sustenance to other species. 

Scientists have created the first large-scale map of microscopic algae on the Antarctic peninsula. The map showed the surface turning green and potentially creating a source of nutrition for other species.

The team of biologists from the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey spent six years on this research. They detected and measured the green snow algae using a combination of satellite data and ground observation.

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications on Wednesday.

Describing the algae map as a missing piece of the carbon cycle jigsaw in the Antarctic, Matt Davey, one of the scientists on the team said, “It’s a community. This could potentially form new habitats. In some place, it would be the beginning of a new ecosystem.” He also explained that the algae have formed close bonds with small fungal spores and bacteria. 

In some areas, these single-cell life-forms are so dense, they turn the snow bright green. these can also be spotted from the space, according to the study. This large-scale map of the algae will be used to assess the speed at which Antarctica is turning green and maybe providing sustenance to other species.

It identifies 1,679 separate blooms of green snow algae. This, together, will cover an area of 1.9 sq. km and equals 479 tonnes per year carbon sink. While this will not make much of a difference in the planet's carbon budget, Matt explained this to equal to emissions of about 875,000 car journeys in the UK.

Almost two-thirds of the green algal blooms were found on islands around Peninsula, but these were small islands. These have experienced the most intense heating in the world. The snow algae were less conspicuous in colder and southern regions.

This is not the first time green has been spotted. Scientists say that earlier michen and mass was spotted, however, those grow extremely slowly in comparison to algae. The scientists also plan to measure red and orange algae to calculate the effect of the presence of these colourful forms on the heat-reflecting albedo quality of the snow.

Andrew Gray, the lead author of the paper, said, “I think we will get more large blooms in the future. Before we know whether this has a significant impact on carbon budgets or bio albedo, we need to run the numbers.”