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Climate change uncovers new habitats in Antarctica

Climate change uncovers new habitats in Antarctica

A large body of research shows the consequences of climate change on the Antarctic ice sheets and on sea levels. However, the effects of this climatic phenomenon on biodiversity until now had not been examined.

Habitat expansion will homogenize Antarctic species

A study, led by Jasmine Lee, an expert in Conservation Biology at the University of Queensland (Australia), has quantitatively evaluated the impacts of global warming on Antarctic species - seals, sea birds, nematodes, microbes - for the first time. and vegetation - from ice-free regions.

The results, published inNature,state that over the course of this century, the increase in ice-free land areas will expand the habitat of Antarctic fauna and flora and increase the biodiversity of the place.

The greater availability of territory will not only benefit the living beings of the region, the scientists point out, it will also allow the entry of new invasive species that, in the fight for survival, will consequently cause the homogenization and extinction of species on the white continent.

More studies on the effects of climate change on biodiversity

The experts have carried out the study taking into account the worst of the two scenarios predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, for its acronym in English).

At the end of the century, ice-free zones will increase their space by 25%

In this context, by the end of the century, the ice-free zones will expand by 17,000 km2 and they will increase their space by 25%. 85% of the thaw will occur in the north of the Antarctic peninsula and the other 15% in specific points of the east coast and in some southern islands.

However, for now, researchers have not found out whether the positive consequences of global warming on Antarctic species will outweigh the negative ones. Thus, experts warn about the need to carry out long-term studies that determine the impacts of this phenomenon on the biodiversity of the place.

If gas emissions are reduced and the global increase in temperature is kept below 2 ° C, scientists indicate that the effects on habitat and biodiversity could diminish by the end of the century.

Bibliographic reference:
Jasmine Lee, et al. "Islands in the ice: climate change impacts Antarctic biodiversity habitats".Nature.http://nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature22996 (2017)
Photo:
The thaw on the Antarctic coast. / Jasmine Lee

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