Antarctica has progressively grown more plant life like moss over the last 50 years.

The cause is climate change, say British researchers in the journal Current Biology.

“Temperature increases over roughly the past half century on the Antarctic Peninsula have had a dramatic effect on moss banks growing in the region,” said Matt Amesbury, lead author, of the University of Exeter. “If this continues, and with increasing amounts of ice-free land from continued glacier retreat, the Antarctic Peninsula will be a much greener place in the future.”

The conclusions were based on moss bank cores taken from a span of approximately 400 miles, stretching from Green Island to Elephant Island. The five samples were taken from three sites collected in 2012 and 2013, they write.

The microscopic evidence showed that all proxies changed dramatically over the last half century: carbon isotope discrimination, microbial productivity, moss bank vertical growth, and mass accumulation.

The changes that were catalogued in the layers showed they were out of the normal range of the previous 2,000 years shown in ice core records, they write.

“Although there was variability within our data, the consistency of what we found across different sites was striking,” said Dan Charman, another author from Exeter. “In short, we could see Antarctic greening to parallel well-established observations in the Arctic.”

Their prediction: although just 0.3 percent of Antarctica can sustain plant life, the greening will continue into the future.

“While the biogeographical isolation and low vascular plant species diversity of Antarctica mean we must think differently about the two polar regions, a greening of the fringes of the Antarctic may already be underway, similar to the well-documented and extensive greening of the Arctic,” they conclude.