Climate change has caused a peculiar phenomenon in Antarctica. Green snow has seemingly taken over large parts of the coastal areas and could start to spread further inland.
A new study published in the Journal Nature Communications found that the green coloured snow was caused by a kind of microscopic algae living and thriving on the surface of the Antarctic snow.
Normally the snow algae is microscopic when measured individually, but when the tiny organisms grow simultaneously and in large groups, the surrounding snow appears to turn green to the point where the change can be seen from space.
According to researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey, the algae will continue to spread as long as the planet continues to warm up. This is because rising temperatures are creating more of the slushy conditions that the algae need in order to live and thrive. Researchers are concerned that if the algae continues to spread, it will invite other larger species to feed on it as a source of protein, resulting in the destruction of land and limited resources.
Researchers conducted this study by looking at satellite data gathered between 2017 and 2018. They then combined that information with on ground measurements taken over two years. Doing this allowed the scientists to map the microscopic algae as they bloomed across the snow of the Antarctic Peninsula, according to CNN.
“We now have a baseline of where the algal blooms are and we can see whether the blooms will start increasing as the models suggest in the future,” said Matt Davey of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences to Reuters.
Researchers also found that the growth of the algae was strongly influenced by mammals and birds. The reason for this is because their excrement serves as an effective fertilizer for the algae. In fact, 60 percent of blooms were found near penguin colonies, and others were found near birds’ nesting sites.
“This is a significant advance in our understanding of land-based life on Antarctica, and how it might change in the coming years as the climate warms,” said Davey in a press release.
Image: Twitter/ NERCscience