Jessica Royles of the British Antarctic Survey and the University of Cambridge, Matthew Amesbury of the University of Exeter, and colleagues reported the first core sample analysis of the rare but growing numbers of moss and amoeba in Antarctica resulting from 150 years of climate change in the Aug. 29, 2013, issue of the journal Current Biology.
The researchers discovered Polytrichum strictum moss peat formations that have been growing at an accelerated rate for the last fifty years due to climate change. The rarity of moss formations in Antarctica is unique and the mosses are one of the few terrestrial plants that grow all year in Antarctica.
The moss has had an accelerated rate of growth over the past 50 years as a result of increasing temperatures in Antarctica. Temperatures in the Antarctic have increased by one half degree Centigrade per decade for the last six decades. This rate of temperature increase is one of the highest in any area in the world and is responsible for the increased rate of moss growth.
Core samples spanning the last 150 years from several moss outcroppings show the same rate of accelerated growth across Antarctica and contain the same species of amoeba. The mosses and amoeba have a symbiotic relationship that is enhanced by increased temperatures.
The research is the first to confirm a change in the plant life in Antarctica as the result of increasing temperatures caused by climate change.