Antarctica’s ice may be melting faster than initially thought, a study says, due to meltwater flowing into cracks and refreezing. Glacial retreat has alarmed scientists, since it could destabilize the continental ice shelf and lead to a sea-level rise of 3.5 ft. across the globe by 2100.
The retreat of ice has exposed more land in recent years, and higher temperatures have encouraged the growth of indigenous moss across parts of the western Antarctic Peninsula. The rate of growth suggests that the South Pole may be a greener landscape in years to come.
The mosses have given nonnative insects like the common housefly the ability to survive on the frozen continent, and invasive grasses and flowers have also found a home there. The fear is that these invaders may bring pathogens that could be fatal to Antarctica’s native flora and fauna.
This appears in the July 03, 2017 issue of TIME.