The Antarctic Peninsula is getting greener as it gets warmer.  Scientists have found that the amount of moss and the rate of plant growth, has shot up in the past 50 years.

"Antarctica is not going to become entirely green, but it will become more green than it currently is," said Dr. Matt Amesbury of the University of Exeter.  He's the co-author of the report published in Current Biology, which show an unprecedented surge in growth all the way along a 600-kilometer stretch of the coastline since the 1950s.

Matt Amesbury/University of Exeter
Matt Amesbury/University of Exeter

"This is linking into other processes that are happening on the Antarctic Peninsula at the moment, particularly things like glacier retreat which are freeing up new areas of ice-free land – and the mosses particularly are very effective colonizers of those new areas," Dr. Amesbury added.

Plant life exists on less than one third of one percent of the continent.  But moss offers scientist a way to study how plant life is impacted by the average temperature there rising by a half degree per decades.

Amesbury and scientists from three British universities and the British Antarctic Survey studied a set of cores drilled out of three islands just off the Antarctic Peninsula to get a record of 150 years of climate.  They found that the rate of moss growth is four to five times higher now than it was in the years prior to 1950.

It suggests that just a small amount of warming could lead to further, rapid changes in Antarctica's ecosystems.