Vascular plants as bioindicators of regional warming in Antarctica
Monitoring selected populations of the only two native Antarctic vascular plant species (Colobanthus quitensis andDeschampsia antarctica) over a 27-year period has revealed a significant and relatively rapid increase in numbers of individuals and populations at two widely separated localities in the maritime Antarctic. There is strong evidence that this increase is a response to a warming trend in summer air temperatures, which has been evident throughout the region since the late 1940s, enhancing seed maturation, germination and seedling survival. This study provides the only known long-term monitoring data for any terrestrial organisms in Antarc-tica. Because their response to ameliorating conditions is more rapid than that of the dominant cryptogamic groups, Antarctic phanerogams may be useful bioindicators of climate change in West Antarctica.