Magazine article Geographical

Animal and Plant Life Set to Increase in the Arctic

Magazine article Geographical

Animal and Plant Life Set to Increase in the Arctic

Article excerpt

A STUDY OF life that existed in the Arctic just before the dinosaurs became extinct could predict the type of species that might live in the polar region if the sea ice melts in the coming decades.

A group of scientists from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton studied mud samples laid down in the Arctic during the late Cretaceous period between 99 and 65 million years ago, when it's thought that high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused the Arctic ice cap to melt during the summer and refreeze in the winter.

The scientists found layers of tiny algae called diatoms in the mud, which appeared to be less plentiful in the winter than in summer, when their levels were so high that the area was as biologically rich as the Southern Ocean is today. Because diatoms are at the bottom of the food chain, if similar numbers reappear by 2030--the year that, some scientists have predicted, the Arctic ice cap will completely melt during the summer--the algae should be able to support other larger animals too. …

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