The Antarctica biodiversity could see substantial changes in the upcoming years as climate change is already transforming the face of the icy continent and will seemingly continue doing so.
A new study on the matter points out that increasingly bigger ice-free regions could come to host more animals and fauna. At the same time, they could also see the expansion of non-native species.
This latest research was led by Jasmine Lee, a Ph.D. student part of the University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences. According to reports, this is also the first study to analyze the effects of climate change on ice-free areas in the Antarctica.
The Antarctica Biodiversity Expected to Increase and Suffer Changes
According to the research team, presently, ice-free zones cover less than one percent of the continent. These regions are also spread across it, with some being the size of a football pitch and others like a small Pacific island. Nonetheless, such regions are quite suitable habitats for animals and plants.
“These areas are home to the majority of Antarctic species – from seals and seabirds to mosses, lichens and small invertebrates, such as tardigrades and springtails,” says Lee.
For their study, the researchers worked alongside partners from CSIRO, the British Antarctic Survey, the Australian Antarctic Division, and UQ. Together, they determined the potential quantity of ice most likely to melt around the existing ice-free regions. These values were predicted and calculated over a period of 80 years, as the climate will continue warming.
Research determined that the melting ice could lead to a 25 percent increase in the current ice-free regions. Namely, it could come to account for some 17,000 square kilometers of possible vegetation.
Lee stated that an extension of such areas could lead to an expansion of the Antarctica biodiversity as well. However, she also pointed out that the warmer weather could possibly encourage the appearance of other non-native species.
The team also says that most native species evolved separately from one another. So the scientists are also unsure how these will cope once they will start intermingling. Or how they will deal with increased competition from other species. They are nonetheless sure that the modifications will be “profound”.
Researchers note that the study could be used to determine areas in need of biosecurity. Or to identify regions that should become protected areas. Study results are available in a paper in the journal Nature.
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