Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Antarctic seabed life reduces climate change

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015

by Eric Hopton

A huge chunk of planet Earth three million square kilometers across has been acting as a giant carbon sink and helping to counteract climate change, but why didn’t we know about it before now? It’s because the area in question lies deep beneath the Antarctic Ocean.

Scientists working for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have discovered how, as polar ice melts, seabed life is working against climate change, according to a press release.

Less ice means more seabed life
The BAS study used data from more than twenty years of research and found that retreating sea ice over Antarctic waters led to the increased growth of life on the seafloor in some areas.

“It was a surprise that life had been invisibly responding to climate change for more than a decade below one of the most obviously visible impacts of climate change: the ‘blueing’ poles,” said David Barnes of the BAS.

The "blueing" Barnes refers to occurs when sea ice melts, changing the Earth’s surface from reflective white to a much darker blue at the poles. The darker areas absorb more heat and cause even more ice to melt in a dangerous feedback loop.

The impact of climate change is normally a string of bad news stories, like blueing, so this research comes as a welcome surprise.

“We’ve found that a significant area of the planet, more than three million square kilometers, is a considerable carbon sink and, more importantly, a negative feedback on climate change,” said Barnes.

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