Antarctica was once a rainforest: researchers

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The ice covered Antarctica once was a swampy rainforest if the new findings are to be believed.  A team of explorers have come across sediments from the seafloor off West Antarctica that contained ancient pollen, fossilised roots and other chemicals. All these were evident of a diverse forest that flourished millions of years ago near to the South Pole.

The findings show how the southernmost part of the earth was during the mid-Cretaceous Period (92 million and 83 million years ago). The researchers reconstructed the climate condition in the region by analysing the vegetation found in the sediments. They concluded that the forest region had an annual temperature of about 13 degree Celsius. The summer time temperatures were about 20 to 25 degree Celsius. The findings are reported in Nature magazine.

The mid-Cretaceous period is known as one of the warmest periods on Earth in the last 140 million years. This was based on analysis of sediments and fossils from the seafloor close to the equator.

Marine geologist Johann Klages was quoted as saying that more potent greenhouse conditions must have existed in the southern region for a forest to thrive. The atmospheric carbon dioxide levels would have been between 1,120 and 1,680 ppm, he said. Even without light for four months in the region, the region could have a temperate climate.

The sediment was traced from within the Amundsen Sea Embayment. The pollen that was found in the sediment showed the region was home to flowering shrubs, ferns and conifers. There was also no presence of salt in the sediments, which meant the region was a fresh water swamp.

The data only showed that Antarctica region was free of ice. They said that if there was an ice sheet, it would have reflected sun’s rays, keeping the region cold. The researchers said that the vegetative cover had an opposite effect. It absorbed the sun’s heat and amplified greenhouse warming.

The findings are yet to see if it would have any impact on the future studies on the region and also about the climatic changes.

 

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