Antarctica glacier retreat creates new CO2 store

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Washington, November 10 (ANI): Reports indicate that the recent and rapid melting of ice shelves and glaciers around the Antarctic Peninsula have led to the creation of a new carbon dioxide (CO2) store.

Large blooms of tiny marine plants called phytoplankton are flourishing in areas of open water left exposed by the recent and rapid melting of ice shelves and glaciers around the Antarctic Peninsula.

This remarkable colonisation is having a beneficial impact on climate change.

As the blooms die back, phytoplankton sinks to the sea-bed where it can store carbon for thousands or millions of years.

Scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) estimate that this new natural 'sink' is taking an estimated 3.5 million tonnes of carbon from the ocean and atmosphere each year.

According to lead author, Professor Lloyd Peck from BAS, "Although this is a small amount of carbon compared to global emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, it is nevertheless an important discovery. It shows nature's ability to thrive in the face of adversity. We need to factor this natural carbon-absorption into our calculations and models to predict future climate change."

"So far, we don't know if we will see more events like this around the rest of Antarctica's coast, but it's something we'll be keeping a close eye on," he said.

Professor Peck and his colleagues compared records of coastal glacial retreat with records of the amount of chlorophyll (green plant pigment essential for photosynthesis) in the ocean.

They found that over the past 50 years, melting ice has opened up at least 24,000 km2 of new open water (an area similar to the size of Wales) - and this has been colonised by carbon-absorbing phytoplankton.

According to the authors, this new bloom is the second largest factor acting against climate change so far discovered on Earth.

"At present, there is little change in ice shelves and coastal glaciers away from the Antarctic Peninsula, but if more Antarctic ice is lost as a result of climate change then these new blooms have the potential to be a significant biological sink for carbon," said Professor Peck. (ANI)

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