Climate Change Might Lead To Decline In Antarctica's Biodiversity, Experts Warn

First Posted: Jun 30, 2017 09:49 AM EDT

An Australian research team has found that about 17,267 square kilometers of land in Antarctica could be without ice cover by 2100 in the worst case scenario. An increase in the current 68,000 square kilometers of ice-free land, which is home to 99 percent of the white continent’s flora and fauna, would have serious consequences on the biodiversity.

"It could mean things that have been isolated for a long time suddenly have the opportunity to mingle, so dispersal may increase and things might start to interact with each other that do not normally do so," lead researcher Aleks Terauds said, as ABC reported. "The expansion of the ice-free areas creates more habitat and this creates more potential habitat for non-native species, for example, for things that do not live in Antarctica to arrive there and to colonize.

The expert also added that an increase in the ice-free land would also mean increased homogenization, where increasing ice-free areas merge together and introduce species move in to flourish. The changes would also mean a competition among the native species to survive, which could lead to the extinction of some. Some of the species native to Antarctica include certain seabirds, seals and penguins, small invertebrates, as well as unique species of fungi, moss and lichen.

The scientists feel that the Antarctic Peninsula would be most impacted by the ice melt, as it is most affected by climate change, eventually becoming green and rocky. Incidentally, this is the first time that researchers have focused on the impact of climate change on the biodiversity of Antarctica. Usually, most of the researches based on studying this region are done to see how melting ice will lead to sea level rises in the world. According to Science Daily, the scientists also referred to Antarctica Earth’s last great wildernesses, whose unique biodiversity has to be protected from the dangers of increasing temperature.

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