Plants re-grow after five centuries under the ice

While monitoring the retreat of the Teardrop Glacier in the Canadian Arctic, scientists have found that recently unfrozen plants, some of which had been under ice since the reign of Henry VIII, were capable of new growth.

While in the field, the researchers from the University of Alberta discovered that the receding ice—which has doubled from 2 meters per year in the 1990s to 4.1 meters per year in 2009—had uncovered lots of mosses and other non-vascular plants, including more than 60 plant species. Upon careful examination, the scientists were impressed by how well preserved the delicate bodies were; the stems and leaf structures were perfectly intact, although some of them were only one-cell layer think. Using radiocarbon dating, they determined that those plants have been frozen for 500 years since the Little Ice Age when the glacier was at its maximum.

The most surprising thing, however, was that many of the plants were showing signs of life: they had green tips and fresh off-shoots, even though they have only been ice-free for less than a year and were just a few centimeters away from the glacier margin.

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