Article

A simple visual technique for estimating the impact of fieldwork on the terrestrial environment in ice-free areas of Antarctica

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Abstract

A set of simple criteria for visual assessment of the effects of low-intensity fieldwork in ice-free areas of Antarctica was developed. These criteria were tested by using them to examine the impact of soil science investigations, both immediately and some time after disturbance, at Marble Point and at Cape Evans, on the shores of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. The use of these criteria showed that for some types of impacts there had been a marked recovery of the surface with time, ranging from 22 months to 30 years. This was apparently due to repeated freeze and thaw of the soil surface and, to a lesser extent, to the influence of wind, which had partly or completely obliterated some of the earlier disturbances. More durable features remained, while deeper surface impressions, such as old soil inspection pits and vehicle tracks, showed little recovery after more than 30 years. Some biological colonisation of areas disturbed 30 years previously was occurring.

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... Ross Sea region ice-free areas are found discontinuously distributed around the coastal margins and in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, the largest continuous expanse of ice-free ground. Soil ecosystems in the Ross Sea region terrestrial environment are characterised by low and fluctuating temperatures, high aridity, low precipitation, low moisture availability, desiccating winds, high exposure to UV radiation, and low levels of organic matter (Campbell and Claridge 1987;Wynn-Williams 1990). Despite the hostile environment, Antarctic mineral soils can harbour bacterial numbers of up to 10 9 cells/g dry soil (Bölter 1995;Aislabie et al. 2006Aislabie et al. , 2008Xiao et al. 2007;Cannone et al. 2008;Ganzert et al. 2011). ...
... Ross Sea region soils comprise a surface desert pavement and seasonally thawed active layer overlying permafrost. Mature, undisturbed Ross Sea region desert pavements are typically characterised by a closely packed layer of gravel, cobble, and boulder-sized rock material, which depending on its age, can be ventifacted, and coated with desert varnish (Campbell and Claridge 1987;Bockheim 2010). Desert pavement clasts are embedded into a finer matrix, and their undersides are often coated in salts. ...
... Desert pavement clasts are embedded into a finer matrix, and their undersides are often coated in salts. The soils beneath are alkaline, generally lack structural development and coherence, and are coarsely textured with very low organic matter contents (Campbell and Claridge 1987;Balks et al. 2002;Aislabie et al. 2004). Soils of the coastal regions, such as Scott Base, contain icecemented permafrost (Balks et al. 2002;Bockheim and McLeod 2006), and predominantly NaCl and NaSO 4 salts consistent with direct marine input (Campbell and Claridge 1987;Campbell et al. 1998). ...
Article
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Humans are visiting Antarctica in increasing numbers, and the ecological effect of rapid soil habitat alteration due to human-induced physical disturbance is not well understood. An experimental soil disturbance trial was set up near Scott Base on Ross Island, to investigate the immediate and short-term changes to bacterial community structure, following surface soil disturbance. Three blocks, each comprising an undisturbed control, and an area disturbed by removing the top 2 cm of soil, were sampled over a time series (0, 7, 14, 21, and 35 days), to investigate changes to bacterial community structure using DNA profiling by terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism. The simulated disturbance did not cause any major shifts in the structure of the bacterial communities over the 35-day sampling period. Ordination showed that the bacterial community composition correlated strongly with soil EC (R 2 = 0.55) and soil pH (R 2 = 0.67), rather than the removal of the top 2 cm of surface material. Although the replicate blocks were visually indistinguishable from one another, high local spatial variability of soil chemical properties was found at the study site and different populations of bacterial communities occurred within 2 m of one another, within the same landscape unit. Given the current knowledge of the drivers of bacterial community structure, that is, soil EC, soil pH, and soil moisture content, a follow-up investigation incorporating DNA and RNA-based analyses over a time frame of 2–3 years would lead to a greater understanding of the effects of soil disturbance on bacterial communities.
... Surrounding these areas, and at sites of scientific or tourism interest (except rocky outcrops), incidental compression and compaction of substrates occur from vehicle and pedestrian activity (including camping, helicopter landings, hut access and recreation; Tejedo et al. 2005Tejedo et al. , 2009. Pedestrian activity causes further disturbance through incidental spreading of clasts, degradation of surface vegetation and ecosystems and human-induced erosion (Burgess et al. 1992, Campbell et al. 1993, Pertierra et al. 2013, O'Neill et al. 2015a, 2015b. Secondary substrate compression also occurs around station facilities as a result of temporary vehicular and pedestrian access during construction activities . ...
... These processes are further intensified by most human activity in Antarctica occurring during summer, when peak active-layer melt and minimal snow cover increase the susceptibility of substrates to disturbance (Hodgson et al. 2010, O'Neill et al. 2015a, Convey et al. 2018. The persistence of the effects from compression depend on substrate vulnerability (O'Neill et al. 2015a and references therein), but have been known to result in long-lasting visual impacts as rapidly as only one pedestrian pass (Campbell et al. 1993, Hodgson et al. 2010, O'Neill 2013. Severe removal of substrates (soil/gravel and rock outcrops) is typically deliberate, in the form of quarrying, excavation and surface scraping for fill by heavy machinery (Kiernan & McConnell 2001a, Klein et al. 2004, Braun et al. 2012 (Fig. 1). ...
... Due to this, visual cues are commonly used to establish and detect the severity of human impacts (e.g. Campbell et al. 1993, Kiernan & McConnell 2001a, Goldsworthy et al. 2003. Campbell et al. (1993) established a human impact assessment tool based on visual criteria, including surface colour changes, upturning of clasts, surface uniformity, presence of foreign objects and vegetation disturbance. ...
Article
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The small ice-free areas of Antarctica provide an essential habitat for most evident terrestrial biodiversity, as well as being disproportionately targeted by human activity. Visual detection of disturbance within these environments has become a useful tool for measuring areas affected by human impact, but questions remain as to what environmental consequences such disturbance actually has. To answer such questions, several factors must be considered, including the climate and biotic and abiotic characteristics. Although a body of research has established the consequences of disturbance at given locations, this paper was conceived in order to assess whether their findings could be generalized as a statement across the Antarctic continent. From a review of 31 studies within the Maritime Antarctic, Continental Antarctic and McMurdo Dry Valleys regions, we found that 83% confirmed impacts in areas of visible disturbance. Disturbance was found to modify the physical environment, consequently reducing habitat suitability as well as directly damaging biota. Visible disturbance was also associated with hydrocarbon and heavy metal contamination and non-native species establishment, reflecting the pressures from human activity in these sites. The results add significance to existing footprint measurements based on visual analysis, should aid on-the-ground appreciation of probable impacts in sites of disturbance and benefit environmental assessment processes.
... Soils and land surfaces of most of the ice-free areas in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica have evolved as a result of slow weathering over long time periods, in an environment governed by low precipitation, severe cold (mean annual air temperatures <À10 C), limited biological activity, and extraordinary landscape stability (Campbell and Claridge, 1987). Antarctic soils generally lack structural development and coherence, and as a consequence, most icefree areas are readily disturbed by human activities, and slow to recover Campbell and Claridge, 1987;Campbell et al., 1993;Claridge et al., 1995;Sheppard et al., 1994). There were more than 60 scientific stations and over 36,000 visitors to the Antarctic in the 2009/2010 summer season (IAATO, 2011). ...
... Salt accumulation on recently disturbed surfaces Campbell and Claridge, 1987) has been reported and it has been recognised that older weathering stage 4, 5, and 6 desert pavements are more vulnerable to disturbance (Campbell and Claridge, 1987). Campbell et al. (1993) developed a visual site assessment (VSA) for rapid evaluation of present day disturbance impacts. The VSA rates the extent of surface disturbance against impact assessment criteria, such as evidence of boot imprints, and evidence of foreign objects, as a means of comparing disturbance severity across different sites. ...
... Weathering processes are strongest at the surface and consequently the colour of the material below is paler than the surface material. A strong colour difference, defined by Campbell et al. (1993) as a colour contrast greater than three units apart (Munsell Soil Colour Chart), was evident on recently, and highly, disturbed surfaces, where the previously underlying material is obvious at the surface. A weak colour contrast occurred on surfaces where the natural weathering processes of recovery had begun. ...
Article
With increasing visitor numbers an understanding of the impacts of human activities in Antarctic terrestrial environments has become important. The objective of this study was to develop a means for assessing recovery of the ground surface desert pavement following physical disturbance. A set of 11 criteria were identified to assess desert pavement recovery. Assessed criteria were: embeddedness of surface clasts; impressions of removed clasts; degree of clast surface weathering; % overturned clasts; salt on underside of clasts; development of salt coatings; armouring per m2; colour contrast; evidence of subsidence/melt out; accumulation of salt on cut surfaces; and evidence of patterned ground development. Recovery criteria were assigned a severity/extent rating on a scale from zero to four, zero being highly disturbed, and four being undisturbed. A relative % recovery for each criteria was calculated for each site by comparison with a nearby undisturbed control area, and an overall Mean Recovery Index (MRI) was assigned to each pavement surface.
... One of the most delicate component of these environments is the soil surface, which is an essential habitat for terrestrial microfauna and flora. Approximately 0.34% of the Antarctic continent is ice-free (Fox & Cooper 1994), and land surfaces are easily disturbed by human activities (Campbell et al. 1993). In some dry areas soils are typically overlain by a 'desert pavement', a thin layer of gravel and coarse sand formed by the winnowing out of fine material by wind over a long period of time until a measured of stability is achieved (Campbell et al. 1998). ...
... Nevertheless, we did not found statistical evidence that a very low level of foot traffic can generate significant differences in the selected measures relative to pristine nearby areas. Working on McMurdo Dry Valley areas, Campbell et al. (1993) documented that after as few as 20 foot transits there is a distinct decrease in the number of surface stones along the line of the track and an increase in color contrast between the track and the undisturbed surface alongside. These authors noted that changes can become apparent even after one single transit. ...
Article
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Research in extremely delicate environments must be sensitive to the need to minimize impacts caused simply through the presence of research personnel. This study investigates the effectiveness of current advice relating to travel on foot over Antarctic vegetation-free soils. These are based on the concentration of impacts through the creation of properly signed and identified paths. In order to address these impacts, we quantified three factors - resistance to compression, bulk density and free-living terrestrial arthropod abundance - in areas of human activity over five summer field seasons at the Byers Peninsula (Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands). Studies included instances of both experimentally controlled use and natural non-controlled situations. The data demonstrate that a minimum human presence is sufficient to alter both physical and biological characteristics of Byers Peninsula soils, although at the lowest levels of human activity this difference was not significant in comparison with adjacent undisturbed control areas. On the other hand, a limited resilience of physical properties was observed in Antarctic soils, thus it is crucial not to exceed the soil’s natural recovery capability.
... Vehicular traffic also results in ground disturbances which are often much more extensive and persistent [17]. Ground disturbance is often greatest where the overlying desert pavement is disturbed and underlying fine material exposed [4,13,18]. In the McMurdo Dry Valleys, distinct walking tracks formed in soft material after as few as 20 pedestrian transits and are still visible up to 23 years after disturbance [4] (Fig. 2, A and B). ...
... At some sites of low intensity trampling, small changes at the soil surface recover relatively rapidly, in less than one annual cycle, suggesting that sometimes the dispersal of activity across wider corridors may be the most appropriate option rather than formation of a well-defined and long-lasting track. However, research has shown, for paths with high intensity use and those located in steep-sloped sites, that constraining use to a single well-defined track, on stony or bouldery surfaces wherever possible and avoiding muddy areas, keeps disturbance to a minimum [7,9,18]. It is clear that both environmental conditions and expected use levels must be taken into account in determining when and where it is more appropriate to concentrate or disperse human activities [7]. ...
Technical Report
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Antarctic soils are particularly vulnerable to disturbance due to their biological and physical properties and naturally slow recovery rates that are suppressed by low temperatures and sometimes low moisture availability. As most human activities are concentrated in relatively small scattered ice-free areas, the potential for adverse human impacts is great. Antarctic soils provide habitat for fauna and flora which are regionally important and, in some cases, include endemic representatives. Thus, protection of this component of the ecosystem should be a priority. Human trampling and track formation as a result of field camp installation, scientific activities and tourism can produce some undesirable consequences on soils. These impacts affect soil physicochemical and biological properties at different scales, ranging from populations to communities, and even habitats. The longevity of disturbances depends on soil type, regional climate, impact severity, remediation effort (if any), and what components of the ecosystem are being affected. In some cases, impacts continue decades after disturbance. Scientists have analysed these impacts, soil vulnerability and recoverability, and guidelines have been proposed to minimize the consequences of human pressures on soil environments.
... Detailed accounts of the history of human activity in Antarctica and resulting impacts on the soil environment are given in Campbell and Claridge (1987), others (2009) andothers (2015) and references therein. The impacts from camping activities of scientists and movement of tourists has been well documented (Campbell et al., 1993;Tejedo et al., 2012Tejedo et al., , 2014O'Neill et al., 2013O'Neill et al., , 2015Balks and O'Neill, 2016). Localised studies on the recoverability of soil substrates following pedestrian traffic have revealed one set of guidelines does not necessarily fit all, where some maritime Antarctic sites are more resilient and readily recoverable due to the warmer, higher rainfall environments; other maritime sites where extensive moss and lichen communities are present, are highly vulnerable to damage. ...
... onsite remediation of fuel-contaminated soil using biopiles near Casey Station, East Antarctica − McWatters et al., 2016a, soil sieving to remove foreign material such as nails (e.g. decommissioning of Vanda Station, McMurdo Dry Valley −, Campbell et al., 1993;O'Neill et al., 2012O'Neill et al., , 2015, best methods for complete removal of fuel contaminated soil (e.g. Casey Station, East Antarctica − Stark et al., 2006), and surface raking to redistribute unnatural concentrations of rock to improve the aesthetics of the landscape (e.g. ...
Article
2016 marked the 25th anniversary of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. Terrestrial ice-free areas constitute approximately 0.18% of Antarctica, but represent the most biologically active, historically rich, and environmentally sensitive sites. Antarctic soils are easily disturbed and environmental legacies of human activities are scattered across the continent; many are remnants of the 1950s-1980s when environmental protection was less comprehensive than today. Adoption of the Environmental Protocol in 1991 represented an important and proactive shift in Antarctic governance, securing environmental protection as a fundamental tenet of the Treaty System. Twenty five years on standards of environmental management have greatly improved, yet environmental pressures are compounding. Shortcomings in the implementation of the Environmental Protocol exist due to disparities in cultural values, operational realities, and inconsistent environmental impact assessments among governments and National Antarctic Programs. Non-native species management remains underdeveloped; and there is inadequate representation of all biogeographic regions within the Protected Area system; therefore jeopardizing conservation of Antarctic biodiversity and the integrity of the soil environment. Fundamental improvements are required to address the current shortcomings and ensure effective environmental protection for the next 25 years, including: (1) increased multinational and multidisciplinary collaboration to answer targeted research questions addressing contemporary management challenges, (2) effective communication of science to policy makers and environmental managers to inform decision- making, and (3) making the mandate of long-term monitoring of the terrestrial environment a high priority for all governments signatory to the Antarctic Treaty.
... Assessment of the present state of the Home Beach and West Beach sites were carried out primarily through ground-truthing exercises, with the aid of historic photos as a means of locating the former base, and characterising the various geomorphological structures of the area. At Home Beach Visual Site Assessments (VSA) (Campbell et al., 1993) and Soil Vulnerability Indices (SVI) (McLeod in prep.) were also carried out on the entire raised beach surface as a whole (an area of 200 x 50 m), and also at the junction of two relict tracks to the north east of the raised beach. Any evidence of previous occupation was photo-documented, and GPS points recorded for future site recovery studies. ...
... Assessment criteria for visual evaluation of terrestrial environmental impacts, VSA modified from Campbell et al., 1993. ...
... Various other challenges to the delivery of outdoor learning have also been identified, including cost, concerns about young people's health and safety, worries about liability, teacher confidence and expertise, time (Dyment, 2005;France & Haigh, 2018;Rickinson et al., 2004) and the potential for some forms of outdoor learning to be insensitive to, or exploitative of, the sites visited; for example, by reducing a complex environment to a single concept or process (McMorran, 2015). Growing concerns about climate change and the protection of fragile ecosystems (Campbell et al., 1993) also pose challenges to some forms of outdoor learning such as international fieldtrips and visits to rare and/or vulnerable environments. With matters of environmental sustainability important to many students, as evidenced by organisations and initiatives like Students Organising for Sustainability UK (n.d), there may be only limited appetite for such forms of outdoor learning in the future. ...
Article
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Accumulating evidence suggests that a range of benefits might accrue from conducting teaching and learning outside in natural environments, and more broadly, from incorporating some kind of contact with nature into teaching and learning activities. Although this evidence does not stem from studies that have focused on geographical higher education, geography educators may be interested in the possible implications for their teaching practice. Framed by this concern, this review considers the evidence for nature’s beneficial effects, primarily in relation to learning, but also in terms of academic performance, cognitive function, health, wellbeing and personal development. It is concluded that it might be desirable for geography educators to explore opportunities to increase geography students’ contact with nature. Practical recommendations for how this could be achieved are suggested.
... The revized management plan has also shifted the recommended campsite to a new location on the edge of the algal flats (Fig. 1). Although protection for the terrestrial habitat remains in force, designated campsites are often associated with significant peripheral disturbance to soil (Campbell et al. 1993 ) and introductions of nonnative species (Frenot et al. 2005). Given that the site has the highest arthropod diversity in the Ross Sea Region, we suggest that such disturbance (particularly if the use of Cape Hallett as an LGP site results in long-term use or high traffic over a period of years) will not only contradict the original purpose for a protected area at Cape Hallett (Logan & Bassett 1985), but that extensive human disturbance undermines any use of the site for monitoring long-term changes to the arthropod community due to climate. ...
Article
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The distribution and abundance of free-living arthropods from soil and under stones were surveyed at the Cape Hallett ice-free area (ASPA No. 106), North Victoria Land, Antarctica. A total of 327 samples from 67 plots yielded 11 species of arthropods comprised of three Collembola: Cryptopygus cisantarcticus, Friesea grisea and Isotoma klovstadi and eight mites: Coccorhagidia gressitti, Eupodes wisei, Maudheimia petronia, Nanorchestes sp., Stereotydeus belli, S. punctatus, Tydeus setsukoae and T. wadei. Arthropods were absent from areas occupied by the large Adelie penguin colony. There was some distinction among arthropod communities of different habitats, with water and a lichen species (indicative of scree slope habitats) ranking as significant community predictors alongside spatial variables in a Canonical Correspondence Analysis. Recent changes to the management plan for ASPA No. 106 may need to be revisited as the recommended campsite is close to the area of greatest arthropod diversity.
... Claridge et al. (1999) addressed the question of the possibility of contaminant movement in soils through experiments using lithium chloride as a tracer. Physical aspects of soil disturbances and means of undertaking assessments were investigated by Campbell et al. (1993Campbell et al. ( , 1998 including the assessment of sites disturbed by pedological activity some 35 years previously. The effects of fuel spills on soils and the capacity for remediation by soil organism have been studied by Aislabie et al. (1998Aislabie et al. ( , 2001 and Balks et al. (2002). ...
Article
The first mention of Antarctic soils dates back to 1916, when Jensen reported on analyses of samples collected in the McMurdo area during the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907–1909. With the advent of the International Geophysical Year in 1958, and the establishment on the continent of permanent bases by many nations, an era dedicated to scientific investigations was inaugurated. New Zealand and American field parties explored the soils of the McMurdo Dry Valleys region and published their findings in the early 1960s. Questions about the legitimacy of calling soils a loose, sandy, grayish material devoid of plants and of an organic layer were often raised but also answered. A number of soil-forming processes were identified and also verified was the role of the soil- forming factors such as of time, lithology, and exposure. In continental Antarctica the biota, except for microorganisms, was only present in small areas occupied by Bryophyta. An organic cover, in the form of guano, was also restricted to penguin rookeries. Chemical weathering and the origin and distribution of salts were topics investigated by pedologists, geologists and geochemists.
... Pavement surfaces in Antarctica are consequently easily disturbed by man and machinery, with human impacts commonly including foot traffic, tyre impressions, and bulldozer blade scrapes. Moreover, the prevailing cold desert conditions of the Antarctic continent result in naturally slow recovery rates (Campbell et al. 1993); consequently desert pavement at some sites has a low rehabilitative capability following disturbance. ...
Article
Full-text available
A set of criteria were developed to quantify the relative stage of desert pavement recovery in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. The innovative desert pavement classification system was formulated based around a number of distinguishing morphological features that change over time as the pavement re-establishes and stabilises. Features included clast characteristics, such as embeddedness, impressions and attributes to describe clast characteristics (e.g. ventifacted, pitted); surface colour contrast; degree of deflation; varnish; pavement crust coherence and thickness; nature of pavement armour (packing and % of surface armoured); presence of salt coatings on rock undersides, as well as general surface stability (e.g. evidence of subsidence, melt, recent disturbance, and concentrations of salt). In year one (2008/2009 summer season) of a two year study the parameters were measured experimentally at five sites at Crater Hill and the vicinity of Scott Base, Ross Island. Sites had been disturbed by activities such as bulldozer scraping for road-fill and contouring for infrastructure at times ranging from one week to 50 years prior to assessment. The initial study sites were re-examined in 2009/2010 to test for repeatability and also the extent of visible recovery; and new sites were classified in the McMurdo Dry Valley region. Sites included previously disturbed sites at Marble Point, Lake Vanda in the Wright Valley, and Cape Roberts. Pavement regeneration and rates of recovery have not previously been studied in the polar desert realm. The ability to predict the rate of recovery from disturbance on a range of surfaces assists with assessing the potential impacts of proposed activities in the Antarctic environment. Given knowledge of the site parent material, the application of the criteria showed it was possible to estimate the stage of desert pavement rehabilitation at each site. The system can also potentially be used to estimate the number of years since the desert pavement disturbance occurred.
... We suggest that some strategies proposed in SCAR's ''Environmental code of conduct for terrestrial scientific field research in Antarctica'' are appropriate to be applied without exception , such as the avoidance of walking in vulnerable areas. The fast degradation caused by trampling on certain vulnerable soils and plant communities has been clearly demonstrated (Campbell et al. 1993; de Leeuw 1994; Campbell et al. 1998; Gremmen et al. 2003; O'Neill et al. 2010). However, with reference to the creation and use of defined paths, consideration of different local variables may be appropriate in assessing if a strategy based on the concentration of pedestrians is the best option. ...
Article
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Soil trampling is one of the most obvious direct negative human impacts in Antarctica. Through a range of experiments and field studies based on quantitative physical (soil penetration resistance) and biological (collembolan abundance) indicators, we evaluate the current codes of conduct relating to the protection of Antarctic soils from the consequences of pedestrian impacts. These guidelines include using, where available, established paths that cross vegetation-free soils. However, the effectiveness of this strategy is highly dependent on context. Limited intensity use -below 100 foot passes per year- produces small changes at the soil surface that can recover relatively rapidly, suggesting that the dispersal of activity across wider corridors may be the most appropriate option. However, for paths with a higher use level and those located in steep-sloped sites, it is desirable to define a single track, following stony or bouldery surfaces wherever possible, to keep the disturbed area to a minimum. It is clear that both environmental conditions and expected use levels must be taken into account in determining when and where it is more appropriate to concentrate or disperse human activities. Even though they may have performed satisfactorily to date, the increasing pressure in terms of numbers of visits for certain sites may make it necessary to revise existing codes of conduct.
... This has led to an increase in the interest in understanding the implications of human presence on the environment of this emblematic territory (Tin et al. 2009). For terrestrial ecosystems, a major abiotic component is the soil itself which has long been considered to be easily disturbed by human activities (Campbell et al. 1993). This high vulnerability is further combined with a supposed limited resilience as a consequence of low temperatures, general absence of vegetation, and scarce soil biota (Campbell and Claridge 1987). ...
Chapter
Antarctic soils provide habitat for fauna and flora which are regionally important and, in some cases, include endemic representatives. Thus, protection of this component of the ecosystem should be a priority. In this chapter, our focus is on the vulnerability of Antarctic soils to foot traffic (heretofore referred to as trampling) and possible future scenarios with regards to the conservation of Antarctic soils. We begin by briefly describing the principal abiotic and biotic features of Antarctic soils, and reviewing the limited studies that have examined the consequences of trampling. We then examine a range of drivers of change that could play a decisive role in the future conservation of Antarctic soils, such as climate change, human pressure and species introduction. Taking into consideration the current legal and management measures for Antarctic soils conservation, we propose two possible future scenarios assuming different management models: a Business-As-Usual scenario and a conservation-focused situation. The chapter ends with a small reflection centered on the difficulties in achieving a conservation-focused future, and the need to consider whether conservation of soil against trampling should be a priority on the agenda of the Antarctic Treaty nations and the international scientific community.
... Campbell & Claridge (1987) consider that the depth to the ice-cemented permafrost appears to correlate with the age of the surface, leading them to suggest that the ice is gradually evaporating into the atmosphere. Campbell et al. (1993Campbell et al. ( , 1994 have pointed out that in areas where human activity has removed the top layer of soil the newly exposed ice-cemented ground rapidly loses water to the atmosphere. ...
Article
Year-round temperature measurements at 1600 m elevation during 1994 in the Asgard Range Antarctica, indicate that the mean annual frost point of the ice-cemented ground, 25 cm below the surface, is -21.7 +/- 0.2 degrees C and the mean annual frost point of the atmosphere is -27.5 +/- 1.0 degrees C. The corresponding mean annual temperatures are -24.9 degrees C and -23.3 degrees C. These results imply that there is a net flux of water vapour from the ice to the atmosphere resulting in a recession of the ice-cemented ground by about 0.4-0.6 mm yr-1. The level of the ice-cemented permafrost is about 12 cm below the level of dry permafrost. The summer air temperatures would have to increase about 7 degrees C for thawing temperatures to just reach the top of the subsurface ice. Either subsurface ice at this location is evaporating over time or there are sporadic processes that recharge the ice and maintain equilibrium over long timescales.
... This is especially relevant, because soils play a crucial role in deposition of different chemical compounds, including pollutants. The anthropogenic transformation of soils in Antarctica from chemical pollution has been shown by previous researchers, i.e., chemical pollution (Aislabie et al. 1998(Aislabie et al. , 2001Balks et al. 2002;Claridge et al. 1995) and physical disturbances of soil cover (Campbell et al. 1993(Campbell et al. , 1998. ...
Article
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Although Antarctica is considered one of the most pristine areas on Earth, an accelerating human presence in this remote continent, such as scientific operations and functioning of numerous scientific stations, logistics, and tourism activities, has increased the risks of environmental impacts in recent decades. During the 63rd Russian Antarctic expedition, 42 samples from topsoil horizons were collected from Larsemann Hills, Mirny station, and Fulmar Island, Eastern Antarctica. The purpose of this work was to analyze the accumulation levels 8 trace elements and to assess possible environmental risks associated with contamination of Antarctic soils. Various human activities have been found to be responsible for increase of metal levels in studied Antarctic environments. Our study also revealed a specific role of ornithogenic factor and moss cover in distribution of contaminants in severe conditions of Eastern Antarctica soils. Ornithogenic soils were characterized by higher rates of accumulation of some trace metals and metalloids (especially zinc and copper) compared with other investigated “pristine” sites without significantly visible traces of guano inputs. In general term, obtained geoaccumulation index for trace elements in all samples were under or slightly above the 0 level, indicating low to moderate pollution of the studied soils. Results of principal component analysis revealed the necessity for further detailed research on interactions of trace metals with soil organic matter for better understanding of their biogeochemistry in the Antarctic environment. Although most of contaminated sites were found in anthropogenically affected areas, accumulation of some elements in guano-derived and moss materials were associated with higher values for soil pollution indices in natural soils, as well.
... A slightly modified version the VSA method of Campbell et al., (1993) was undertaken at four sites within the CGTZ (an example of which has been included in Appendix 2). The SVI of McLeod et al., (in prep) was also implemented at the four sites. ...
... Soils play crucial role in deposition of different chemical compounds including pollutants. Soil in Antarctica has been impacted by anthropogenic activities such as chemical pollution (Aislabie et al. 1998(Aislabie et al. , 2001Alekseev and Abakumov 2020a;Balks et al. 2002;Claridge et al. 1995) physical disturbance of soil cover (Campbell et al. 1993(Campbell et al. , 1998. Numerous studies focused on soil pollution by heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have been conducted in Western Antarctica, and only few investigations available for coastal oases of Eastern Antarctica (Abakumov et al. 2015;Gasparon and Matschullat 2006;Goldsworthy et al. 2003;Subhavana et al. 2019). ...
Article
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This study is aimed at investigation of various potential contaminants (arsenic, mercury and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) content in soils of different landscapes of Eastern Antarctica ice-free areas. Our data not only showed that intensive human impact might result in significant direct contamination of surrounding landforms, but also revealed a specific role of ornithogenic transport in distribution of contaminants. Analysis revealed that the contents of investigated elements were 0.100–8.055 mg kg−1 (arsenic), 0.025–0.027 mg kg−1 (mercury) in Larsemann Hills and 0.100–1.213 mg kg−1 (arsenic), 0.023–0.593 mg kg−1 (mercury) in vicinities of Mirny station and Fulmar Island. Accumulation of some elements in guano-derived and moss materials lead to higher values of other soil pollution indices at natural sites. Results of our study revealed the predominance of light molecular weight PAHs (fluorene and acenaphthylene) in studied soils. Results of our study are not completely in agreement with the idea of an practically uncontaminated Antarctic ecosystem which was previously reported for Eastern Antarctica ice-free areas. Various human activities carried out at local scale have been found to be responsible for increase of metal levels in studied Antarctic environments.
... This commenced under the farsighted initiative of Iain Campbell who led three expeditions with Graeme Megan Balks in 1990-1992 with a focus on impacts of soil disturbance on the landscape and permafrost. These trips culminated in the development of the visual soil assessment method (VSA) for evaluating Antarctic soil surface disturbances (Campbell et al., 1993). The VSA method continues to be widely used across the Antarctic continent as a simple and practical way of monitoring human impacts on the terrestrial environment. ...
Article
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We outline teaching and research activities relating to pedology and soil survey, and some other soil-related work involving geomechanics, both in New Zealand and Antarctica, carried out by staff and students in the Earth Sciences discipline at the University of Waikato for the 50-year period from 1969 to 2018. Key features include: (i) the insightful multidisciplinary approach using a new Earth sciences' framework that was enacted at the outset by founding professor John D. McCraw and colleagues Michael J. Selby and Harry S. Gibbs in particular; (ii) the development of teaching and research strengths in pedology, especially involving tephra-derived soils and soil stratigraphy in the central North Island, and the concomitant advancement of prowessness in Quaternary tephrostratigraphy and tephrochronology; (iii) the development of expertise in slope studies and rock and soil mechanics (geomechanics, engineering geology), with specialist advancements regarding pyroclastic and associated reworked deposits and altered products; (iv) pathfinding research involving classical soil surveying and the subsequent growth of the use of GIS and geostatistical tools, which aided the eventual development of digital soil mapping beyond the university, and their application to a wide range of disciplines including geomorphology, sustainable plantation forestry, agriculture, and horticulture; (v) growth of expertise in multiple aspects of studies on wetlands (peatlands, lakes), and in environmental and carbon-and nitrogen-flux based research; (vi) pioneering and enduring research in Antarctica including soil surveying and studies on human impacts; and (vii) the successful development of an effective postgraduate school encompassing pedology,
Article
Antarctic polar deserts can be of considerable scientific interest, but can also exhibit great environmental sensitivity. A variety of factors, including Australia’s legal obligations under the Madrid Protocol, public expectations, certain research opportunities and ethical considerations, demand a very high standard of environmental protection. A survey outside the Davis Station limits in the Vestfold Hills, East Antarctica, identified 66 sites at which past human activities had left long-term impacts on the physical environment. Nearly half of all observed impacts were the result of geoscientific research that had left old pit and trench sites, vehicular tracks, partly excavated palaeontological material, rock sampling and drilling sites, localised slope instability caused by disturbance, and discarded equipment and markers. Comparisons between rehabilitated sites and others where little, if any, rehabilitation appears to have been attempted suggest natural processes alone are generally insufficient to heal the damage, but that effective rehabilitation is often possible if undertaken immediately after the initial disturbance.
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The Ross Sea region of Antarctica contains the largest ice-free areas in Antarctica (about 6700 km²). Soils in the Ross Sea region have a mean annual temperature of about −15 to −25 °C and so all contain permafrost. Antarctic soils generally comprise: a stony desert pavement from which fine material has been removed, predominantly by wind erosion; an active layer that freezes and thaws each year; and underlying permafrost in which temperatures remain below 0 °C. The McMurdo Dry Valleys, described as a ‘cold desert’, are Antarctica’s largest continuous ice-free area, formed where evaporation exceeds precipitation. In some of the driest areas, there is not enough soil moisture to form ice-cement and the soils are described as having ‘dry permafrost’. However, in coastal areas, and areas where there is some input of snow or meltwater, the permafrost is ice-cemented, patterned ground features form at the land surface, and soils may contain lenses or wedges of ice. Soils range from having minimal weathering and soil development on active surfaces, such as wind-blown sand dunes and sites of fluvial activity, through to ancient soils on stable, older, higher altitude surfaces, with highly weathered desert pavements, and salt-rich layers in the soil.
Article
We review aspects of climate change likely to impact upon the Collembola and mites (microarthropods) of Victoria Land and the Queen Maud Mountains (VLQMM) in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica. Five important aspects of biological and biological–environmental interactions are identified as key for understanding the impact of climate change on VLQMM microarthropods: (1) Water availability and utilization; (2) mean temperature (which will affect development and population processes) and extreme temperatures (which affect persistence); (3) ultraviolet radiation, although we note that the periods of peak UV irradiance and microarthropod activity do not coincide; (4) dispersal within and between habitats; and (5) potential establishment of invasive species from within and without Antarctica. The current evidence for effects of climate change on VLQMM microarthropods is equivocal, and we advocate targeted experimental and monitoring studies. Finally, we highlight several areas of high priority for future research, particularly on the mite fauna for which detailed information is currently lacking. These are: (1) functional ecology (including thermal biology, feeding and nutrition and water relations); (2) distribution, dispersal and colonization processes and (3) population and community ecology.
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Well over 95 % of the total land area of Antarctica and adjacent islands is permanently ice-covered and unavailable to colonisation by plants and animals. Ice-free areas attract a biota that includes: A flora severely restricted by harsh climatic conditions, isolation and lack of opportunities for recruitment, in which algae, mosses and lichens predominate, and vascular plants are severely limited to the milder and damper marginal areas, linked with A microfauna of soil organisms restricted almost entirely to microphages, and A macrofauna made up mainly of seabirds and seals that depend on the sea for their livelihood, and use the land only for resting and breeding.
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Antarctic soils are vulnerable to disturbance due to their physical properties and naturally slow recovery rates that are suppressed by low temperatures and low availability of liquid moisture.
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During the last two decades the archipelago of Svalbard has evolved as a focal point for tourism and scientific research in the Arctic. In 1995 the Norwegian authorities inaugurated a management plan in order to conserve Svalbard and to minimise environmental degradation resulting from increased anthropogenic activity. However, the potential for accelerated modification of the tundra, as a result of field camps, was not addressed. Parameters, such as percentage vegetation cover, soil compaction, and soil infiltration rate were measured before and after a four-week period of field-camp activity, under controlled conditions, during July 1997. The study site was located near Ny-Ålesund, Kongsfjorden, Spitsbergen. Statistical analysis showed that where no significant differences in the parameters were recorded at the control site, the presence of a field camp did cause a significant impact on the Arctic heath tundra surface. For example, mean soil compaction, increased from 1.16 kg cm-2 to 2.57 kg cm-2. The use of good practice procedures, such as moving tents regularly and utilising a groundsheet, did not prevent an impact on the environment. Key parameters at the main study sites were reassessed in July 1999, revealing that no significant recovery from the impact caused in 1997 had occurred. An established campsite at Ny-Ålesund was also studied in 1997, and the results support the findings of the main survey: a significant difference recorded for the parameters measured at the campsite, compared to negligible or no changes at the control site. In order to achieve a sustainable tourism and science-based community in Svalbard, i t is proposed that the existing management plan be expanded to incorporate a set of guidelines for wilderness camping, with the aim of mitigating the impact of field camps on the tundra.
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The soils in the McMurdo Dry Valley region are a key component of the polar desert ecosystem. Formed in an environment of low precipitation, severe cold and minimal biological activity, the soils have distinctive cold desert features in which the principal processes of oxidation and salinization are slowly superimposed on the regolith materials. Although climatic conditions are extreme, there is considerable variation in the soil environment. At the macro-scale five distinct soil regions are identified, broadly corresponding with temperature differences across the dry valley region. Soil moisture and chemical characteristics are important for characterizing the soils. At the microscale, appreciable variations occur over short distances as a result of parent material and site differences which affect the radiational and thermal properties of the soils. Surface albedo and air temperature are key factors influencing the soil thermal regime and moisture availability. Soil salinity is important in determining the occurrence of ice cement and, to an extent, the variation in soil temperature extremes. Because of the great age and stability of the soils and the extremely slow rate at which soil processes operate, the soils of the McMurdo Dry Valleys are very susceptible to damage from human activities.
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This paper describes the results of a program for the monitoring and remediation of hydrocarbon contamination at the former Greenpeace base site, located at Cape Evans, Ross Island, Antarctica (77°38E). World Park Base operated year-round between 1987 and 1991. It was entirely removed in 1991lenses’ of contaminated sediment at the bottom of the active layer. These subsurface hydrocarbons may mobilise into the backfill cover above or in the upper part of the permafrost. Hydrocarbons were detected in previously uncontaminated backfill, which may have resulted from upward migration and re-deposition of hydrocarbons. During the monitoring period the interaction of contaminated sites with meltwater and aeolian processes did not significantly change the hydrocarbon distribution at spill sites, although limited mobilisation of hydrocarbons is likely to occur by these or other mechanisms. The difficulty of removing hydrocarbons from permafrost terrain underscores the legal (under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty) and ethical responsibility of all operators to avoid their release into the Antarctic wilderness, including the areas that have been subject to earlier impacts. A no-action approach might in some cases be the best option available to deal with contaminants in freezing ground, but it is not acceptable unless it is preceded by the thoughtful consideration of all other alternatives. Ultimately, there is a need to find environmentally friendly alternatives to using fossil fuels as the primary source of energy in Antarctic stations.
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The Madrid Protocol requires that before any kind of activities are conducted in Antarctica, the possible environmental impacts need to be assessed. Five case studies were investigated to assess the effectiveness of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system with respect to predicting and managing the effects of visitor activity in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. Investigated EIAs included the decommissioning of the Greenpeace World Park Base, Cape Evans; Taylor Valley Visitor Zone, Taylor Valley; the decommissioning of the Vanda Station; occupation of the Loop Moraine campsite, both in the Wright Valley and McMurdo Dry Valleys; and the occupation and restoration of the ice-free storage area for the Cape Roberts Drilling Project, Cape Roberts. The assessed sites were situated on a variety of landforms, soil parent materials, and local climates. At each site, the history of the site was known, and the time since last disturbance was well constrained. Assessment of the present state of the sites and accuracy of the EIA predictions compared with the actual impacts were carried out in the austral summers of 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 using visual soil assessment methods. At each of the five case studies, the standard of physical landscape recovery was higher than anticipated. Each case study demonstrated a high standard of EIA compliance, appropriate remediation of the site post-event, and follow-up monitoring where promised. Cleanup practices were of a high standard in each of the case studies investigated. The raking out of tracks, redistribution of disturbed stones, and careful backfilling of excavations all assisted in the rehabilitation of the formerly disturbed sites to near their predisturbed condition. Although the EIA process may seem superficial, with a lot of form filling, the process is effective as it raises environmental awareness and motivates visitors to take responsibility for their “footprint” on the environment.
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Ice-free ground surfaces in the Australian Antarctic Territory are sensitive to damage by artificial disturbance. Natural processes appear generally inadequate to heal the resulting scars over human time scales and substantial ongoing environmental impacts may accrue where melting of subsurface permafrost is triggered. Studies of some rehabilitation projects at sites where significant ground disturbance had been caused during geoscientific research indicate that although specific site conditions are critical to the approach taken, environmental harm can be reduced provided maximum advantage is taken of the opportunities to minimise and manage impact at each of the project design, environmental review, site selection, operational and rehabilitation phases. These sites provide a useful analogy for larger disturbances caused by infrastructure development.
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Cryosols of the Transantarctic Mountains region of Antarctica are an important part of one of the earth’s more extreme ecosystems. They have evolved in an environment dominated by extremely low temperatures, severe aridity, and the absence of a significant soil biological regime.
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Soils in Aotearoa New Zealand are diverse. Soils of all 12 orders in Soil Taxonomy occur in New Zealand, which is unusual for a relatively small land area. Also, all the soil orders of the New Zealand Soil Classification can be identified elsewhere in the world. However, some features of New Zealand soils are globally uncommon including the large area of Pumice Soils; the world’s oldest Allophanic Soils; Pallic Soils formed in loess with minimal calcium carbonate and often with fragipans; Ultic Soils with podzol-like morphologies including distinctive ‘egg-cup’ E horizons and densipans; Perch-gley Podzol Soils on the West Coast of South Island; extensive Brown Soils that mainly lack subsoil illuvial clay; relatively high soil carbon contents in topsoils, and yet few soils that have deep (>25 cm) dark topsoils; and the ‘dry permafrost’ soils of the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica. Ten methods used in New Zealand to evaluate soils and assist in land management decisions are described, ranging from traditional knowledge, through digital soil mapping, concepts of high-class soils, soil versatility, and soil vulnerability, to complex technical evaluation systems including ecosystem service modelling. Aotearoa’s diverse and productive soils are a life-supporting taonga/treasure which all need to treat with kaitiakitanga/care.
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Sites of past human activity were investigated to assess the visual recovery of the desert pavement following impacts from human trampling and vehicle traffic. Visually disturbed and nearby control sites were assessed using comparative photographic records, a field-based Visual Site Assessment, and Desert Pavement Recovery Assessment. Sites included: vehicle and walking tracks at Marble Point and Taylor Valley; a campsite, experimental treading trial site, and vehicle tracks in Wright Valley; and vehicle and walking tracks at Cape Roberts. The time since last disturbance ranged from three months to over 50 years. This investigation also attempted to determine what has the greatest lasting visual impact on soil surfaces in the Ross Sea region: dispersed trafficking or track formation? Walking tracks remained visible in the landscape (due to larger clasts concentrating along track margins) long after the desert pavement surface had recovered. However, randomly dispersed footprints were undetectable within five years. For many sites, allowing widespread trampling will give lower medium-term visible impact than concentrating traffic flow by track formation. For steep slopes and sites where repeated visits occur, use of a single track is recommended. Some 1950s vehicle tracks remain visible in the Antarctic landscape, but where visually obvious impacts were remediated, evidence of former occupation was almost undetectable.
Article
The speed with which tracks form as a result of trampling on exposed ground surfaces in Antarctica was investigated in the McMurdo Sound and Dry Valleys regions, by a simple treading experiment. Distinct tracks formed with fewer than 20 foot passes — as measured by stone cover, surface soil exposure, and track width — and they continued to develop with increasing traffic levels. Track development was rapid and most obvious on sandy gravel soils with a pebbly desert pavement, but slower and less distinct on soils with an extensive cover of surface boulders. The persistence of human impact from ground disturbances, which occurred up to 30 years previously, when pits were dug during field science investigations, was assessed using a range of previously defined criteria. Recently disturbed sites, where some action had been taken to restore the site immediately after disturbance, showed the least overall impact. Impacts persisted longer at sites where no restoration had been undertaken, but the remaining impact varied with factors such as exposure to wind and the age of the land surface. These results demonstrate the fragility of Antarctic soil surfaces and the terrestrial environment, as well as the long time-scales for recovery of Antarctic ground-surface disturbances.
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We describe here the development of an environmental impact assessment matrix, adapted from Leopold et al. (1971), to estimate probable impact of a major geological drilling project in Antarctica. Our matrix includes five recovery time intervals and impact probability. Methods for environmental impact monitoring have emphasised microbiology of air and soil in this unusual region of sparse native soil and water microbial communities, such that preaudits, audits and postaudits could be used to monitor impact and recovery. Data obtained have enabled revision and improvement of prediction for our impact matrices.
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Soils of the cold desert have many features in common with those of hot deserts. They generally have dry surface horizons, capped by a desert pavement of lag gravel, a zone of accumulation of water-soluble salts, and a permanently frozen layer beneath, which may be ice-cemented in its lower part. They are also distinguished by their very low temperatures and as a consequence of this they have very low moisture status and humidity.Soil moisture within cold desert soils is usually in the form of small ice crystals, vapour, or thin water films. The influence of broad climatic differences in Antarctica is reflected in the soils by differences in moisture supply, in terms of precipitation, and its availability, which is dependent on the length of time any given soil is, in whole or in part, above freezing. This in turn influences the development of morphological properties including soil depth and horizon development. On the basis of these features it has been possible to group soils in terms of moisture availability: those in which moisture is rarely, if ever. available and in which there is no leaching of soluble materials (ultraxerous moisture class); soils in which moisture is sufficient to allow some leaching of soluble material (xerous moisture class). and soils in which relatively large amounts of moisture are available (subxerous moisture class). Characteristics of the soils formed under these regimes are described.Subsurface ice, present during the early stages of soil formation as the soil parent material is formed by the ablation of ice-cored moraine, represents an important source of profile moisture during the early stages of soil formation. Its main influence on soil morphology, however, is in the mixing and sorting of coarse and fine materials during the formation of patterned and hummocky ground.In local areas where there is an abundance of moisture, often as a saline solution in hollows or depressions, intrazonal soils may be developed. Apart from a wetter soil moisture regime, these soils are characterised by the presence of higher concentrations of soluble salt, by olive rather than brownish soil colours and by higher clay contents as well as by differences in weathering and clay mineral formation. The profile features resulting from these moisture differences are described and illustrated.
The development of an environmental review process for the New Zealand Antarctic Research Programme
  • Logan