Water connects it all.

For millions of years, Antarctica’s tiny life forms have claimed isolated pockets for their homes. Watery holes in a glacier. Patches of soil. Rocks on a streambed.

Each separate niche holds a different mix of species. All survive on water trickling off the nearby glaciers.

As the climate warms, more melt water will pour off the glaciers, sweeping through these pockets of life. Scientists believe the organisms—and the stuff that nurtures them—would spread out over the landscape. Variations between the many, specialized ecosystems would disappear. The planet might lose some species that live only in Antarctica.