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South Georgia Island Was Once Covered by Extensive Ice Cap

Phys.org/ University of Exeter - March 20, 2017 in Environment

South Georgia Island Was Once Covered by Extensive Ice Cap
Photo: David Stanley/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A new study reveals the sub-antarctic island of South Georgia—famous for its wildlife—was covered by a massive ice cap during the last ice age.

The results are published today in the journal Nature Communications. South Georgia, the remote UK territory where Sir Ernest Shackleton landed during his dramatic voyage from Antarctica to rescue the team of his Endurance expedition, is home to various species of penguins and seals, and has featured on documentaries including Frozen Planet and Planet Earth II.

The island’s unusual plant communities and marine biodiversity, which are protected within a large Marine Protected Area, have survived and evolved through multiple glacial cycles for tens or even hundreds of thousands of years.

But a research team led by the University of Exeter has discovered that at the peak of the ice age, about 20,000 years ago, ice thickened and extended tens of kilometres from the island—far further than previously believed.

This would have driven its biological communities to small mountain and seabed refuges to survive.

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