“Visiting Antarctica, you expect to see icy, white landscapes,” said lead scientist Prof Sharon Robinson from the University of Wollongong, in Australia. “But in some areas there are lush, green moss beds that emerge from under the snow for a growing period of maybe six weeks.”
While West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula are some of the fastest warming places of the planet, East Antarctica has not yet experienced much climate warming, so the scientists did not expect to see much change in the vegetation there.
“But we were really surprised when we saw how fast it was changing,” Prof Robinson said.
“After a pilot study in 2000, we set up monitoring in 2003. When we returned in 2008, all these green moss beds had turned dark red, indicating they were severely stressed. It was a dramatic change.
“They change from green to red to grey if they get really stressed.