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Greenland's ancient forests shed light on stability of ice sheet

have been reduced to between 1 km to 1.5km.

"If our data is correct, then this means that the southern Greenland ice cap is more stable than previously thought," says Professor Willerslev. "This may have implications for how the ice sheets respond to global warming."

However, Professor Willerslev was keen to dismiss the idea that this meant sea levels would not rise to the levels predicted by scientific models.

"We know that during the last interglacial, sea levels rose by 5-6m, but this must have come from other sources additional to the Greenland ice cap, such as Antarctic ice. I would anticipate that as the Earth warms from man-made climate change, these sources would still contribute to a rise in sea levels."

The results also show conclusively that ancient biomolecules from the base of ice cores can be used by scientists to reconstruct the environments hidden underneath ice-covered areas and can yield insights into the climate and the ecology of communities from the distant past.

"Analysing ancient biomolecules from beneath glaciers and ice sheets is challenging due to the very low concentrations, but the information is worth the effort," says Dr Enrico Cappellini, a member of the University of York's new PALAEO Group and another of the paper's co-authors, whose work is supported by the European Commission. "Our study suggests a solution to this problem. Given that ten per cent of the Earth's terrestrial surface is covered by thick ice sheets, it could open up a world of new discoveries."


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Contact: Craig Brierley
c.brierley@wellcome.ac.uk
44-207-611-7329
Wellcome Trust
5-Jul-2007


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