“It's not just an accident,” said study lead author Simon Pendleton, lead author of the study, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, told CNN. "These ancient landscapes are found in a wide geographic region on Baffin Island."
For this study, scientists tore 48 mosses and lichens – still rooted in places where they were killed as a result of ice expanding thousands of years ago – from the edges of 30 retreating ice caps on the Canadian island of Baffin during the summer from 2010 to 2015
Using radiocarbon dating, researchers found that most of the plants were under the ice for at least 40,000 years, says Ph.D. from the University of Colorado Boulder Simon Pendleton, lead author of the study.
The plants were found in the area of the Penny Island Ice Cap and around it at a height of several hundred meters to a mile above sea level. In the newly exposed landscape, mainly on the plateaus between the fjords, boulders, bedrock and tundra vegetation predominate.
Despite the fact that they are ancient, the collected plants are the same species that are alive and growing on the island today – not uncommon, given that we are considering a gap of tens of thousands of years, not millions, Pendleton said.
The results of a study of plant age in combination with temperature data recovered from Greenland's ice cores suggest that this is the warmest century in the region in 115,000 years, the study says.
“These trends are likely to continue and remove all ice from Baffin Island over the next few centuries, even in the absence of additional summer warming,” the study says.