Nav: Home

Human 'footprint' on Antarctica measured for first time

March 04, 2019

Buildings alone cover more than 390 000 square metres of land while the visual footprint - the areas from which human activity can be seen - extends to more than 93 000 square kilometres.

The lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Sustainability, IMAS PhD student Shaun Brooks, said measuring the area impacted by humans was important for Antarctic conservation and environmental management.

"Although the 53 countries that have signed the Antarctic Treaty agreed to protect the Antarctic environment, until now there has been only limited data on the spatial extent of human activity on the continent," Mr Brooks said.

"Our research shows that human impacts are the greatest on land that is also the most environmentally sensitive - ice free areas within a few kilometres of the coast.

"Ice-free land supports the continent's greatest diversity of flora and fauna, including iconic species such as Adelie penguins, and provides the most accessible areas for marine animals that breed on land.

"We found that 81 per cent of the buildings in the Antarctic are located within just 0.44 per cent of the land that is free of ice."

Mr Brooks said future increases in research activity and tourism were expected to put further human pressure on the continent in coming years.

"The data we have collected can be used to inform decision-making on Antarctic conservation and environmental management, as well as to track future impacts and changes.

"It may also serve to encourage greater coordination and sharing of facilities between nations and users accessing Antarctica, to help limit the human footprint.

"There is a growing tension between the increasing pressure for access to the continent and international commitments to protect the Antarctic environment.

"Hopefully our research can help to inform a sustainable balance between these competing imperatives," Mr Brooks said.
-end-


University of Tasmania

Related Antarctic Articles:

Climate change impacts Antarctic biodiversity habitat
Ice-free areas of Antarctica -- home to more than 99 percent of the continent's terrestrial plants and animals -- could expand by more than 17,000 km2 by the end of this century, a study published today in Nature reveals.
Why do Antarctic krill stocks fluctuate?
It is only six centimeters long, but it plays a major role in the Antarctic ecosystem: the small crustacean Euphausia superba (Antarctic krill).
Antarctic ice rift spreads
The rift in the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica now has a second branch, which is moving in the direction of the ice front, Swansea University researchers revealed after studying the latest satellite data.
Antarctic Peninsula ice more stable than thought
Glacier flow at the southern Antarctic Peninsula has increased since the 1990s, but a new study has found the change to be only a third of what was recently reported.
Tracking Antarctic adaptations in diatoms
In the Antarctic Ocean, large populations of the diatom Fragillariopsis cylindrus dominate the phytoplankton communities.
Survival artists in the Antarctic
Researchers study the ways in which moss can survive in hostile environments.
Future of Antarctic marine protected at risk
Efforts to adopt effective marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean, a global commons containing the world's most pristine marine ecosystems, are being thwarted by political infighting and fishing interests.
New manager for US Antarctic Program logistics contract
Leidos Holdings, Inc. will hold the National Science Foundation's contract for support of the U.S.
A recent pause in Antarctic Peninsula warming
The rapid warming of the Antarctic Peninsula, which occurred from the early-1950s to the late 1990s, has paused.
The start of 'healing' for the Antarctic ozone hole?
After persisting for decades, the hole in the ozone over the Antarctic has begun to 'heal,' exhibiting an ozone increase, a new study reports.

Related Antarctic Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#521 The Curious Life of Krill
Krill may be one of the most abundant forms of life on our planet... but it turns out we don't know that much about them. For a create that underpins a massive ocean ecosystem and lives in our oceans in massive numbers, they're surprisingly difficult to study. We sit down and shine some light on these underappreciated crustaceans with Stephen Nicol, Adjunct Professor at the University of Tasmania, Scientific Advisor to the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies, and author of the book "The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World".