Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator


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Notably, the vicinity of Frei, Escudero, Bellinghausen and Great Wall stations on Fildes Peninsula King George Island, South Shetland Islands displays the largest cluster of pixels in the Antarctic Peninsula region with a footprint score of over 90 across an area of c. In contrast, footprint values on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula was substantial only at latitudes above c.

Fig 3 shows the distribution of human footprint values across all IBAs, with colonies subject to the highest human footprint located predominantly around the northern Antarctic Peninsula. Table 1 shows the 10 most potentially vulnerable IBAs based upon human footprint values and also details the triggers for the allocation of IBA status and the area management tools employed by the Antarctic Treaty System.

Some IBAs are located in close proximity to established research stations and visitors sites, resulting in a high footprint value.

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However, some areas identified as potentially vulnerable to local human activity have no formal internationally agreed area management e. IBA No. Substantial variability in the percentage of bird species protection within ASPAs was noted.

Insufficient data was available to make an assessment for some species, including the macaroni penguin Eudyptes chrysolophus , which has been categorized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Table 3. Footprint score 20—39 green , 40—59 yellow , 60—79 orange , as shown in Fig 3. This study completes the mapping of global human footprint by producing the first continent-wide map for terrestrial Antarctica [ 21 , 22 ]. At a continent-wide scale human footprint was much lower than most other areas of the Earth.

However, at a regional spatial scale, footprint was often correlated with accessibility to ice-free land by sea. For example, in the Ross Sea region the accessible coastline hosts several facilities and human footprint values are correspondingly high, while the values for the remote, uninhabited and largely land-locked Transantarctic Mountains were comparatively low.

In some areas, ice-free coastal sites of large extent were often found to be subject to greater human activity than those of smaller extent. For example, on the South Shetland Islands, most major ice-free promontories were sites of substantial human activity or infrastructure Fig 2. This may indicate that the availability of ice-free ground for further human colonization at some locations may be reaching a limit, and notably on the northern Antarctic Peninsula and offshore islands.

Importantly, this means that substantial amounts of ground free of direct human activity and associated impacts including wildlife disturbance and habitat destruction are no longer available to indigenous flora and fauna. The designation of Antarctic Specially Protected Areas ASPAs generally reduced the human footprint values of the selected areas, as entry to these sites is conditional upon visitors obtaining permits, which are generally only allocated for scientific or environmental management purposes.

Nevertheless, ASPAs close to existing research stations often had relatively high footprint values, as access by scientific staff was more readily achievable Hughes et al. It should be highlighted that the generated maps e. Furthermore, the footprint model incorporates data relevant to the current distribution of infrastructure and human activity; however, the addition of a temporal element to the model may allow insight into cumulative impacts at sites or across the continent as a whole Hughes et al. Thus, a limitation of the study is the capacity to detect the exact levels of disturbance experienced by Antarctic terrestrial species at the most vulnerable stages of their life cycles such breeding or moulting.

However, since most human activities in Antarctica peak in the austral summer period considerable interference could be expected. Moreover, the picture of human footprint presented here is generated from information on present activities —16 and does not reflect the cumulative historical occupation of the sites. Therefore, it should be viewed as an indication of the current pressures to Antarctic ecosystems, and therefore subjected to changes with time. Climate change and expanding human footprint are having an increasing impact upon Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems and their synergistic action may increase conservation challenges across the continent and beyond [ 1 , 2 , 35 ].

It is the responsibility of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting to ensure the agreed principles within the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty are applied, taking into consideration specialist advice provided by the Committee for Environmental Protection. However, until recently, spatial and temporal information on the three major components that are needed to assist Parties in their policy and environmental management decisions were not readily accessible to policy makers, i. The production of a human footprint mapping tool fills a gap in the information readily available to policy-makers.

This situation improved with the development of spatial management tools. Morgan et al. Building on the EDA framework [ 44 ] the study of Terauds and colleagues [ 45 ] drew upon expert opinion and available biodiversity data to divide Antarctica into 15 biologically distinct biogeographical regions, named Antarctic Conservation Biogeographic Regions ACBRs. In this study we have provided a management tool to describe the third component, i. Antarctic human footprint. Combined with these other management tools, footprint mapping has the potential to assist the ATCM in determining areas at risk of non-native species introductions and areas at risk of transfer of indigenous species between biogeographic regions leading to biological homogenisation [ 4 , 10 , 36 , 46 ].

Footprint mapping may also be useful in the development of the Antarctic Protected Area system, which has received criticism for being inadequate and unrepresentative [ 11 , 37 ]. Alternatively, footprint maps may highlight areas of intense human activity where the creation of Antarctic Specially Managed Areas ASMAs may be important to avoid conflict and facilitate cooperation between stakeholders, and ensure adequate protection, rather than further displacement of biological communities and wildlife. It may also be useful in planning monitoring programmes for potential human impact including pollutants, environmental damage and non-native species [ 5 , 9 , 47 ].

The data showed that IBAs with the highest footprint scores were located in the northern Antarctic Peninsula region and close to research stations in coastal locations of East Antarctica and the Ross Sea region see Fig 3 and Table 1.

An IBA can be designated as an ASPA to protect a site for scientific research or for conservation purposes, including minimizing human impact at the site. More specifically, IBA No. The c. No internationally recognized management has been agreed for this location, despite visitation levels of up to visitors per year. Research station managers may impose restrictions on personnel residing at the stations regarding access to nearby IBAs, but their jurisdiction may not extends to other visitors. The justification for these designations over other IBAs is not always clear, but may be to protect exceptional assemblages of avifauna or to facilitate scientific investigations e.


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Robertson Land. Antarctic Specially Managed Areas ASMAs are designated to assist in the planning and co-ordination of activities, avoid possible conflicts, improve co-operation between Parties or minimise environmental impacts. Although the measures set out in their management plans are hortatory, Restricted Zones can be designated, where human access may only be allowed under special circumstances, as has been done at ANT Cormorant Island that lies within ASMA No.

However, the additional protection afforded by designation of Scientific Zones within ASMAs may not always be clear e. IBAs with some of the highest footprint scores are located in the northern Antarctic Peninsula. Due to the hortatory nature of these guidelines, the consequences of breaching the guidelines are not clear. Coetze and Chown [ 48 ], following a recent meta-analysis of human disturbance impact on Antarctic wildlife, recommended that management guidelines for different species found at different locations be developed on a case-by-case basis. As little or no wildlife disturbance research has been undertaken at most visitor sites, the credibility of wildlife minimum approach distance recommendations within existing Site Guideline for Visitors is therefore in doubt.

For other species inadequate data meant estimates were not possible pointing to a need for improved bird population monitoring. Most Antarctic bird species have been evaluated as either Least Concern or Near Threatened under the IUCN categories, so enhanced protection may not be a priority in terms of global populations. The footprint data provided in this paper fulfils the first of these criteria and the data in Table 3 alongside the work of Harris and colleagues [ 3 ] fulfills the second.

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Taking a broad view, Antarctica is subject to less human activity that most other areas of the Earth; however, at a finer spatial scale many areas of scare coastal ice-free ground are under increasing pressure from human activities and substantial human impacts have been recorded including habitat destruction and disturbance of wildlife e. Until now, comprehensive models of human footprint within the continent have not been available to inform environmental policy and management decisions.

Application of the footprint model to assess the use of existing Antarctic spatial management tools for avifauna conservation showed designation of protected areas to be unsystematic, in some cases leaving penguin and flying bird species without formal legal protection in some of the Important Bird Areas most potentially vulnerable to human activity and impact. It is hoped that the human footprint map generated here, alongside other available management tools, may prove useful for policy-makers in their work on issues including avifauna protection, environmental impact assessment, environmental monitoring, non-native species, area protection and, ultimately, a wider Antarctic conservation strategy [ 2 , 34 , 50 ].

Erik Woehler and Dr. Hans-Ulrich Peter are thanked for their valuable comments that largely improved the final manuscript. Funding acquisition: MAOT. Project administration: MAOT.

The Molecular Ecology of Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Invertebrates and Microbes

Browse Subject Areas? Click through the PLOS taxonomy to find articles in your field. Abstract Human footprint models allow visualization of human spatial pressure across the globe. Materials and Methods In this study, human footprint was considered to be the spatial pressure on Antarctic ice-free ground, caused either by the existing i. Feature 3: accessibility Three separate dimensions were considered during the calculation of accessibility to ice-free areas, with their corresponding scores accounted separately: 1 coastal access from shipping, 2 terrestrial access from facilities and 3 airborne access from aerodromes.

Aggregated human footprint values per site To obtain the aggregated human footprint score for each ice free site, the values from the five features analyzed within the Antarctic continent were added and obtained scores ranging from 5 to Results Antarctic human footprint distribution Modelling of the current distribution of human activities in Antarctica revealed a footprint that was largely concentrated in the northern Antarctic Peninsula region and southern Victoria Land, as well as several isolated and predominantly coastal areas in East Antarctica Fig 1 and S4 Table.

Antarctica as a Global Indicator

Download: PPT. Fig 1. Human footprint of the Antarctic continent and offshore islands for inset, see Fig 2. Fig 2. Antarctic important bird areas Fig 3 shows the distribution of human footprint values across all IBAs, with colonies subject to the highest human footprint located predominantly around the northern Antarctic Peninsula. Fig 3. Fig 4. Table 1. Antarctic Important Bird Areas IBAs subject to the highest levels of estimated human footprint 10 highest footprint scores.

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Table 2. Table 3. Percentage 1 of the estimated global population of Antarctic bird species found within IBAs also designated as Antarctic Specially Protected Areas based upon data contained in [ 3 ]: Harris et al, Discussion This study completes the mapping of global human footprint by producing the first continent-wide map for terrestrial Antarctica [ 21 , 22 ]. Use of footprint information in management of human activities Climate change and expanding human footprint are having an increasing impact upon Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems and their synergistic action may increase conservation challenges across the continent and beyond [ 1 , 2 , 35 ].

Fig 5. Results reinforce the need for strict management practices to minimize introductions. Volume 23 , Issue 7. The full text of this article hosted at iucr.


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If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Primary Research Article. Luis R. Pertierra Corresponding Author E-mail address: luis. Pertierra, tel. Justine D. Dana M. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation.

Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator
Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator
Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator
Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator
Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator
Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator
Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator

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