Plants and soil microbes respond to recent warming on the Antarctic Peninsula

Annual temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the most rapidly warming regions on Earth, have risen by up to 0.56°C per decade since the 1950s [1]. Terrestrial and marine organisms have shown changes in populations and distributions over this time [2 and 3], suggesting that the ecology of the Antarctic Peninsula is changing rapidly. However, these biological records are shorter in length than the meteorological data, and observed population changes cannot be securely linked to longer-term trends apparent in paleoclimate data [4]. We developed a unique time series of past moss growth and soil microbial activity from a 150-year-old moss bank at the southern limit of significant plant growth based on accumulation rates, cellulose δ13C, and fossil testate amoebae. We show that growth rates and microbial productivity have risen rapidly since the 1960s, consistent with temperature changes [5], although recently they may have stalled [2]. The recent increase in terrestrial plant growth rates and soil microbial activity are unprecedented in the last 150 years and are consistent with climate change. Future changes in terrestrial biota are likely to track projected temperature increases closely and will fundamentally change the ecology and appearance of the Antarctic Peninsula.


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Authors: Royles, Jessica, Amesbury, Matthew J., Convey, Peter, Griffiths, Howard, Hodgson, Dominic A., Leng, Melanie J., Charman, Dan J.

On this site: Dominic Hodgson, Peter Convey
9 September, 2013
Current Biology / 23
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