Terrestrial Holocene climate variability on the Antarctic Peninsula

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Plant Sciences

Abstract

The Antarctic continent is an important part of the Earth system, both influencing and responding to global ocean and atmospheric circulation. The ice sheet plays a major role in sea-level change and currently holds the equivalent of 70m of global sea-level rise. Monitoring change in the climate, cryosphere and biosphere of Antarctica is therefore a critical element in understanding and predicting future global change. Over the past 50 years, the climate over most of Antarctica has remained relatively stable, but the Antarctic Peninsula has experienced one of the highest rates of warming anywhere on Earth, with increases of 3oC since the 1950s, and even higher rates for winter in some locations. The rapid increase in temperature has been associated with decreased sea-ice extent, ice-shelf collapse, glacier retreat and increased ice flow rates, and changes in ecosystems on land and sea. However, the causes and context of the recent temperature changes are unclear, although it is thought that stratospheric ozone depletion and increasing greenhouse gases are both important. Current global climate models do not capture the observed changes adequately at present. A key question in understanding and attribution of Antarctic climate change is whether the recorded changes on the Peninsula are unusual compared with past natural climate variability. However, this question cannot be addressed because the instrumental records are too short and existing proxy-climate records are not suitably located to be able to trace the spatial signature of change over time. The project proposed here will exploit moss banks as a new proxy-climate archive to test three key hypotheses: 1) The recent temperature rise on the Antarctic Peninsula is unprecedented in the late Holocene. 2) The spatial pattern of variability is similar to that which occurred during previous periods of climate change. 3) Plant communities are responding to recent climate change by increases in growth rates and altered seasonal growth patterns. Moss banks are ideal deposits for reconstructing climate change over the land surface of the Antarctic Peninsula because of their location in relation to recorded temperature changes, their age, and their attributes as archives. The moss banks have accumulated peat over the past 5-6000 years at locations throughout the western Antarctic Peninsula. They are formed of only one or two species, annual growth can be traced in the surface peats and preservation of moss remains is good. We will use multi-proxy indicators of past climate (stable isotopes, measures of decay, testate amoebae and moss morphology) to reconstruct climate variability from critical locations across the observed gradient in rate of temperature change between 69o and 61o S. Although these techniques are tried and tested in more temperate regions of the world, they have not been employed in the Antarctic. We carried out pilot studies on Signy Island which show that these proxies work well for the moss banks in the Antarctic so we know that our approach will produce valuable results. Our work will also involve improving our understanding of proxy-climate relationships by a programme of surface sampling and measurement. The records will be calibrated using annually resolved records covering the period of instrumental observations. Together with records from Signy Island being produced as part of a current BAS PhD project supervised by members of the research team, emerging results from the BAS ice core at James Ross Island and some of the higher resolution ocean sediment records, our data will also provide the basis for a more complete understanding of late Holocene climate variability in the broader region, building on the BAS Past climate and Chemistry programme directed at reconstructing and understanding Holocene climate variability in the Antarctic Peninsula.
 
Description That distinct markers in mossbanks (stable isotopes, amoebae) provide indicators of past climate change, and that climate change is accelerating biotic processes on the Antarctic peninsula
Exploitation Route additional research to demonstrate these processes are accelerating
Sectors Education,Environment

 
Description The results have been used in the following ways: Citation in IPCC (2013) report with impact on science and policy for climate change Engagement activities in schools (see engagement activities for details) Stimulation of joint research programmes through international workshop (see engagement activities). a recent paper on the extent of warming in the Antarctic peninsula has attracted some of the highest ecological impact ratings in altmetrics for that year.
Sector Education,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Citation in IPCC 5th assessment report on climate change
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact These are published materials composed of the full scientific and technical assessment of climate change, generally in three volumes, one for each of the Working Groups of the IPCC, plus a Synthesis Report. Each of the Working Group volumes is composed of individual chapters, an optional Technical Summary and a Summary for Policymakers. The Synthesis Report synthesizes and integrates materials contained within the Assessment Reports and Special Reports and is written in a non-technical style suitable for policymakers and address a broad-range of policy-relevant but policy-neutral questions. It is composed of a longer report and a Summary for Policymakers. The scientific observations cited in the report confirm the impact of global warming on moss growth on the Antarctic peninsula
URL https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/
 
Description Holocene evolution of the Southern Annular Mode using novel peat isotope proxies. PI Dan Charman with Matt Amesbury (Exeter) and investigators from Cambridge and Victoria, NZ.
Amount £245,011 (GBP)
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 09/2018
 
Description NERC Responsive Mode
Amount £384,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/M001946/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2015 
End 12/2017
 
Description Academic advisor to SAPS 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Various activities include Discussions on Teaching Methods with Teachers, as well as advising on the scientific content of posters, animations and other outreach materials produced by SAPS

Various discussions with Teachers and requests to present to students in specific schools
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013,2014
URL http://www.saps.org.uk/
 
Description Blog interview with JR about research 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview about work with JR for blog aimed at a combination of science and art
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.wearestardust.uk/blogs/news/we-are-stardust-interview-with-botanist-dr-jessica-royles
 
Description Botanic Garden Newsletter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact Description of research and collaboration with CU botanic garden for the Garden Newsletter
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Cambridge Conference on Global Food Security 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Conference was held on 23-24 June 2016 co-hosted by Cambridge Global Food Security, the Centre of Development Studies, and Cambridge's conservation networks: the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and Forum, and the University of Cambridge Conservation and Research Initiative. Over 225 people took part, gathering in the newly opened David Attenborough Building, home to the Cambridge Conservation Campus.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.globalfood.cam.ac.uk/symposia/2016
 
Description Gatsby Summer School Tutor 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Round table discussion on key issues in climate change and food security

Interest promoted in methods for enhancing photosynthesis and ongoing research in my lab
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.slcu.cam.ac.uk/outreach/gatsbyplants
 
Description Graduate Symposium in Vienna "MInd the App" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Student Symposium "Mind the App"
"Applications that bridge biology and technology"; organized by Phd-students of the Vienna Biocenter.
"This is an interdisciplinary conference involving 15 international scientists who have unconventionally applied technology to basic research or conceived an innovative application from a scientific finding. Topics include "Molecular Toolbox", "Bioengineering Medicine", "Manipulating the Code" and "Shaping Ecosystems"."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://bme.htu.at/2016/09/14/student-symposium-mind-the-app/
 
Description Graduate seminar on food security 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact discussion on impacts of climate change on food security
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Institute for Continuing Education presentation: Mosses on a roll as climate change gather pace 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Study at one of the world's leading universities this summer. Every July and August our International Summer Programmes offer adults of all ages and backgrounds an intensive learning experience with the opportunity to live in some of Cambridge's most beautiful Colleges. Over 175 courses and seminars, plus 200 supplementary lectures make up our open-access programmes: summer science programme
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Introduction Session - CCfCS 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Introduction session to the Cambridge Centre for Climate Science: outlining the climate science related work underway in the Department of Plant Sciences - included section on this NERC funded project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://www.climatescience.cam.ac.uk/
 
Description Invited seminar at a major international conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation gave a major overview of plant physiology and ecology in improving sustainable crop productivity
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.europlantbiology2018.org/
 
Description Leader of Debate on Climate and Sustainability 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Led question-time panel and chaired discussion on actions associated with Food Security and Climate Change
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
URL http://www.cambridgeclimateforum.org/
 
Description Open Day and School visits hosted for Biological and Plant Sciences 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact School visits, in association with Clare College and/of the University Open Days and Dept of Plant Sciences, included a Biological Sciences Taster Day, three full open days (July/September and hosting individual year groups (year 8/9, 10/11 or 12) to talk about plant processes and food security, impact of climate change, as well as admissions procedures
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018,2019
URL http://www.clare.cam.ac.uk/Information-for-Schools/
 
Description Participate in broadcast on local national and international radio 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact participation in interviews and live broadcasts to promote plant and crop sciences to the wider community
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description Participation in Cambridge Forum for Sustainability 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The Forum aims to stimulate cross-disciplinary conversations about some of the great sustainability challenges the world faces in the future and the research pathways which will help to prepare for and address those challenges.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017
URL http://www.cfse.cam.ac.uk/
 
Description Participation in popular science radio programme 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Science week Debate on plant processes attended by schoolchildren, increasing interest in subject areas
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.thenakedscientists.com/
 
Description Presentation to British Bryological Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Invited presentation "From Antarctica to East Anglia: using mosses as environmental indicators" to the Annual General Meeting of the British Bryological Society: Approx 60 people in audience. Questions followed, including discussion of potential collaboration, and raised awareness of our work to many of the key bryologists in the country
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://rbg-web2.rbge.org.uk/bbs/meetings/forthcoming.htm#17d
 
Description Presentations to undergraduate societies and organisations 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Several talks and panel discussions chaired as part of their activities which led to media interest and stimulated debate within and between participants and external speakers

Raised awareness of the fundamental importance of plants to society in general
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014,2015,2016
URL http://camtriplehelix.com/
 
Description School visit (Impington Village College) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk sparked interest in photosynthesis and stimulated discussion on fundamental science and food security issues generally

I was asked by teachers if I would be prepared to undertake similar activities in the future; advice was also offered for those undertaking university applications for science and biology
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2014
 
Description Talk to Parent and baby group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Bried talk about Antarctic and moss related work to a group of around 40 parents and babies, open to the public in Ely
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.facebook.com/mummasandmore/
 
Description Undergraduate Training through Summer Vacation Studentships 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact In previous years, we have used Departmental funds to support summer studentships, where undergraduate students can be involved directly in ongoing research programmes; for the BBSRC PSIL Enhancing Photosynthesis, students have been directly involved in laboratory work in terms of developing techniques, analysing images and successively creating the CAPP website (http://www.globalfood.cam.ac.uk/) and associated teaching resources. Students specifically benefitting from this support have included: Rachel Purdon (2011), Jessica Finch and Richard Perez-Storey (2012), Oliver Terrett and Ninhghui Shi (2013) and Charlie Whittaker (Rank Prize Fund award, 2014); Other students have been working on climate change and moss-lichen interactions in Antarctica

The website and associated eductional resources and Rubisco game have attracted considerable attention and hits; many of the students have been attracted into studying plant science in Final Year and have graduated with excellent degrees.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007,2008,2009,2010,2011
URL http://cambridgecapp.wordpress.com/
 
Description University Open Days 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The open days are large-scale events organised by the central Cambridge Admissions Office in conjunction with the University Colleges and departments.
Cambridge Open Days are for Year 12 students (or equivalent) and mature applicants who are considering making an application in October 2017 for entry in October 2018 (or deferred entry in October 2019).
Attendees will find out what the University and Colleges have to offer, attend presentations on courses, the application process, student support, finance, and careers. They will have the opportunity to talk to academic staff from the departments and Colleges, and undergraduate students will also be on hand to talk to about student life at Cambridge.

My participation has encouraged students to apply to Cambridge- direct feedback
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2006,2007,2008,2009,2010
URL http://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/events/cambridge-open-day
 
Description appearance on Naked Scientist panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact participation in live debate on radio
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.thenakedscientists.com/
 
Description meet with representatives of eminent society or government ministry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Meet CSaP visiting Policy Fellow from Royal Society and BEIS and discuss food security issues in relation to global food security and engagement with the public
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019