With ongoing concerns about rising global temperatures, a new LSU and Rice University-led study examined the last time Antarctica had vegetation, going back 12 million years.

The new report will be the cover story of the July 12 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. The study is said to represent the most detailed reconstruction of the Antarctic Peninsula’s climatic history.

LSU geologist Sophie Warny and her team were able to identify the species of plants that once existed there through a multi-year study of thousands of individual grains of pollen that were preserved in muddy sediments beneath the sea floor and near the coast.

“It allowed us to construct a detailed picture of the rapid decline of the forests during the late Eocene — about 35 million years ago — and the widespread glaciation that took place in the middle Miocene — about 13 million years ago,” Warny said in the LSU and Rice joint release.

After years of searching for funding, in 2002, the National Science Foundation began funding the SHALDRIL project.

Lead author and marine geologist John Anderson of Rice said in the release, “The best way to predict future changes in the behavior of Antarctic ice sheets is to understand their past.”

He added, “This type of record is invaluable as we struggle to place in context the rapid changes that we see taking place in the peninsula today.”