Melting glaciers reveal Canadian land hidden for 40,000 years


Southern Baffin IslandKike Calvo/AP

Melting ice is exposing hidden landscapes in the Canadian Arctic that haven’t been seen in more than 40,000 years, new research published in Nature Communications reveals.

Unsurprisingly, the study suggests climate change is the driving force behind this record-breaking glacial retreat and with Arctic temps rising at increasing speed thanks to strong positive feedback loops in the polar regions, we can expect things to heat up even quicker in the near future. According to researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Canadian Arctic may be seeing its warmest century in as many as 115,000 years…

❝ Simon Pendleton and colleagues’ research is based on plants collected at the edge of ice caps on Baffin Island, the fifth-largest island in the world. The landscape is dominated by deeply incised fjords and high-elevation, low-relief plateaus. The latter conserves lichens and moss in their original position in the ice for periods of time lasting thousands of years — a little like a cryogenic chamber.

RTFA to learn why scientists like Pendleton have to be hot on the spot to gather samples of vegetation as it becomes exposed.

As global warming affects the Arctic, plants frozen for centuries turn green again


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Plants that were frozen during the “Little Ice Age” centuries ago have been observed sprouting new growth, scientists say.

Samples of 400-year-old plants known as bryophytes have flourished under laboratory conditions…

They come from a group from the University of Alberta, who were exploring an area around the Teardrop Glacier, high in the Canadian Arctic.

The glaciers in the region have been receding at rates that have sharply accelerated since 2004, at about 3-4m per year.

That is exposing land that has not seen light of day since the so-called Little Ice Age, a widespread climatic cooling that ran roughly from AD 1550 to AD 1850.

“We ended up walking along the edge of the glacier margin and we saw these huge populations coming out from underneath the glacier that seemed to have a greenish tint,” said Catherine La Farge, lead author of the study…

“When we looked at them in detail and brought them to the lab, I could see some of the stems actually had new growth of green lateral branches, and that said to me that these guys are regenerating in the field, and that blew my mind,” she told BBC News.

“If you think of ice sheets covering the landscape, we’ve always thought that plants have to come in from refugia around the margins of an ice system, never considering land plants as coming out from underneath a glacier.”

But the retreating ice at Sverdrup Pass, where the Teardrop Glacier is located, is uncovering an array of life, including cyanobacteria and green terrestrial algae. Many of the species spotted there are entirely new to science.

It’s a whole world of what’s coming out from underneath the glaciers that really needs to be studied,” Dr La Farge said.

I wonder if there’s a chance we might reacquire Mothra? 🙂