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Top Story

Extreme melt season leads to decade-long ecosystem changes in Antarctica

An abnormal season of intense glacial melt in 2002 triggered multiple distinct changes in the physical and biological characteristics of Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valleys over the ensuing decade, new research shows. The findings suggest that abrupt, short-lived climate events can cause long-term alterations in polar regions that unfold over the span of several years and subsequently change the overall trajectory of an ecosystem. The McMurdo Dry Valleys are the largest ice-free region of Antarctica and are considered a polar desert environment due to their low humidity and scarce precipitation. The 2002 glacial melt event prompted numerous changes in the lakes, streams and soils of the region over the following decade. The findings suggest that significant transformations of Antarctic ecosystems are under way now and will continue to be affected by future climate events.

Visit Website | Image credit: Peter Rejcek, NSF