Antártica está ficando verdejante

Pesquisadores britânicos encontraram áreas com musgo em rápido crescimento na península Antártica, o que fornece evidências impressionantes de mudanças climáticas nas partes mais frias e remotas do planeta.

Em meio ao aquecimento dos últimos 50 anos, os cientistas descobriram duas espécies diferentes de musgos se desenvolvendo a um ritmo veloz: antes, cresciam menos de um milímetro por ano, mas agora crescem mais de 3 milímetros por ano, em média.

“As pessoas pensam na Antártica como um lugar cheio de gelo, com bastante razão, mas nosso trabalho mostra que partes dela são verdes e provavelmente se tornarão mais verdes”, disse Matthew Amesbury, pesquisador da Universidade de Exeter, no Reino Unido, e principal autor do novo estudo. “Mesmo estes ecossistemas relativamente remotos, que as pessoas podem pensar que são relativamente intocados pelos humanos, estão mostrando os efeitos da mudança climática induzida pelo homem”.

O estudo foi publicado na revista científica Current Biology, por cientistas da Universidade de Exeter, da Universidade de Cambridge, da British Antarctic Survey e da Universidade de Durham.

 

Tendência crescente

Menos de 1% da atual Antártica possui plantas. Mas, em partes da península, os musgos estão crescendo cada vez mais em terrenos que se descongelam parcialmente no verão.

Os musgos da superfície se acumulam em uma camada fina, que congela novamente no inverno. Conforme camadas são construídas em cima de outras camadas, os musgos mais velhos diminuem abaixo do solo congelado, onde são notavelmente bem preservados devido às temperaturas.

Isso faz deles um registro das mudanças ao longo do tempo. Amostras de solo de uma área de 640 km ao longo da parte norte da península revelam alterações dramáticas nos padrões de crescimento, que remontam 150 anos.

A Antártica tem sido um local de aquecimento rápido, com mais dias por ano onde as temperaturas sobem acima do congelamento conforme o tempo passa. A consequência disso é um aumento de quatro a cinco vezes na quantidade de musgo.

 

De paisagem congelada a florestal

As fotos tiradas pelos autores durante a pesquisa capturam algumas paisagens verdejantes, como esta:

“Esse é outro indicador de que a Antártica está movendo para trás no tempo geológico – o que faz sentido, considerando que os níveis atmosféricos de CO2 já subiram a números que o planeta não via desde o Plioceno, há 3 milhões de anos, quando o lençol de gelo antártico era menor, e os níveis do mar mais altos”, disse Rob DeConto, glaciologista da Universidade de Massachusetts, que não esteva envolvido no estudo, mas que o revisou.

DeConto crê que, se as emissões de gases de efeito estufa continuarem como estão, a Antártica voltará ainda mais longe no tempo geológico, talvez se tornando florestal algum dia, como foi durante os climas do Cretáceo e do Eoceno.

Os autores do estudo concordam que as mudanças observadas atualmente são provavelmente apenas o começo. “Essas mudanças, combinadas com o aumento das áreas de terra livre de gelo a partir do recuo da geleira, levarão a uma alteração do funcionamento biológico, aparência e paisagem da península antártica em grande escala durante o resto do século XXI e além”, escreveram.

 

Ártico

O crescimento de musgo antártico ainda é modesto em comparação com o que está acontecendo no Ártico, onde uma tendência de grande escala já foi capturada por satélite.

No Ártico, há agora tanto crescimento de plantas que alguns cientistas esperam que, pelo menos parcialmente, isso compensará a perda de carbono do descongelamento do permafrost por baixo dessas plantas.

Esses dias estão provavelmente ainda muito longe para a Antártica. [ScienceAlert]

 

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