The moss was encased in ice during the Little Ice Age of 1550–1850 AD. Since 2004, glacial ice has been rapidly retreating in the region, uncovering much plant life thought to be completely dead, explains the study abstract, posted on the U.S. National Academy of Sciences website on May 22, 2013.
The plants “have remarkable species richness,” states the abstract.
That the moss sample, taken from Sverdrup Pass, central Ellesmere Island, returned to life shows a great resiliency in non-vascular plants, known as bryophytes. It expands scientists’ understanding of the role bryophytes have played in the past, or could play in the future, in regenerating polar ecosystems.