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Environmental management of a scientific field camp in Maritime Antarctica: Reconciling research impacts with conservation goals in remote ice-free areas

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Abstract: Currently, a substantial proportion of Antarctic research is carried out through deployment of field camps, but little detailed information on the running of these facilities is often available. The remoteness of camps and the fragility of local Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems make the running of sustainable, low impact field science and logistics in ice-free areas a challenge for environmental managers. In this study we examined the environmental management at the Spanish camp within Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) No. 126 Byers Peninsula, Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands. Firstly, the input of materials and generation of pollution associated with the camp during a ten year period of operation was quantified. Examination of greenhouse gas emissions shows a mean of 14 t CO2 equivalent per researcher associated with transportation of people to the site, plus 44 t CO2 equivalent per researcher, associated with transportation of cargo to the field site. Secondly, the cumulative trampling footprint across Byers Peninsula and associated local impacts were recorded. Results showed the pattern of human movement within the ASPA and how activities concentrated around the field camp site. At the same time every effort was taken to ensure scientific outputs from research activities within the ASPA were maximized. Practical recommendations on operational logistics are discussed to minimize environmental impacts and optimize scientific benefits.
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Antarctic Science 25(2), 307–317 (2013) &Antarctic Science Ltd 2013 doi:10.1017/S0954102012001083
Environmental management of a scientific field camp in Maritime
Antarctica: reconciling research impacts with conservation goals
in remote ice-free areas
LUIS R. PERTIERRA
1
, KEVIN A. HUGHES
2
, JAVIER BENAYAS
1
, ANA JUSTEL
3
and ANTONIO QUESADA
4
*
1
Departamento de Ecologı
´a, Universidad Auto
´noma de Madrid, 28049 Madrid, Spain
2
British Antarctic Survey, NERC, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, United Kingdom
3
Departamento de Matema
´ticas, Universidad Auto
´noma de Madrid, 28049 Madrid, Spain
4
Departamento de Biologı
´a, Universidad Auto
´noma de Madrid, 28049 Madrid, Spain
*corresponding author: antonio.quesada@uam.es
Abstract: Currently, a substantial proportion of Antarctic research is carried out through deployment
of field camps, but little detailed information on the running of these facilities is often available. The
remoteness of camps and the fragility of local Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems make the running of
sustainable, low impact field science and logistics in ice-free areas a challenge for environmental managers.
In this study we examined the environmental management at the Spanish camp within Antarctic Specially
Protected Area (ASPA) No. 126 Byers Peninsula, Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands. Firstly, the
input of materials and generation of pollution associated with the camp during a ten year period of
operation was quantified. Examination of greenhouse gas emissions shows a mean of 14 t CO
2
equivalent
per researcher associated with transportation of people to the site, plus 44 t CO
2
equivalent per researcher,
associated with transportation of cargo to the field site. Secondly, the cumulative trampling footprint across
Byers Peninsula and associated local impacts were recorded. Results showed the pattern of human
movement within the ASPA and how activities concentrated around the field camp site. At the same time
every effort was taken to ensure scientific outputs from research activities within the ASPA were
maximized. Practical recommendations on operational logistics are discussed to minimize environmental
impacts and optimize scientific benefits.
Received 22 February 2012, accepted 29 September 2012
Key words: carbon footprint, impact assessment, science, South Shetland Islands, terrestrial ecosystems
Introduction
Remote field camps are fundamental components of
the terrestrial biological and geological research logistic
programmes of many nations operating in Antarctica.
Such field activities are bound by the legislation within
the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic
Treaty which includes the mandatory assessment of
environmental impacts associated with all activities
within the Antarctic Treaty area. Remote field camps can
be very different in nature, scale and spatial extent, but in
each case the presence of researchers within field locations
inevitably leads to some environmental impacts, which
should be minimized to the maximum extent practicable.
The Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs
(COMNAP) currently lists 81 research stations, 18 permanent
or seasonal camps and two refuges within the Antarctic
Treaty area (south of 608S) (COMNAP 2012). Using these
data, field camps represented only 17% of all reported
facilities, but the level of human activity within temporary
camps has been severely under-reported. For example, there
has been a Spanish summer field camp on Byers Peninsula
since 2001, which has not been included in the COMNAP
list, yet in that time it must have generated at least
some impacts. How ‘transitory’ these impacts may have
been needs to be assessed; for example, the human
activities may have lead to the development of paths
and/or the introduction of non-native macro- and micro-biota,
which may have longer term consequences for the area
(Convey 2008). The presence of temporary field camps
established by two or more nations simultaneously at
the same location may also have consequences for the
environment and necessitate co-ordinated environmental
management. For instance, a Chilean camp was
simultaneously deployed during the 2010 season in Byers
Peninsula beside the Spanish campsite, which led to
additional environmental impacts in the local area
(Fig. 1). Lack of information concerning the movement
and activities of researchers from different nations may
severely hamper the calculation of human footprint and
cumulative impact of national operator activities within
Antarctica. Some attempts have been made to establish the
extent of human footprint over a wider spatial scale.
Hughes et al. (2011) showed the location of UK field
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sampling activities since the late 1940s and ice-free areas
visited over much of the Antarctic Peninsula and beyond.
Levels of human occupation in field camps are generally
much lower than on research stations. Typically, camps
may contain from two to a dozen researchers compared
with stations which can accommodate tens to several
hundreds of personnel. However, field camps, although
smaller and often more transient, may be considerably
more numerous. Many stations act as staging posts to
support field activities and temporary camps in remote
locations. In many cases, the same biological and
geological values that attract researchers and make
necessary the temporary camps are also those values that
are particularly vulnerable to human activity. Added to this,
the remoteness of some field locations may generate
logistical difficulties (Clarke et al. 2005) that make the
maintenance of high environmental management standards
problematic, e.g. ensuring waste is managed appropriately.
Monitoring of long-term or cumulative impacts is rarely,
if ever, routinely performed at field locations due to
the transient nature of occupancy and the costs. Finally,
re-use of camp facilities by subsequent expeditions may
be irregular and closely linked with national funding
of specific scientific topics for which the location is
appropriate as a research site (whether this is geology,
limnology, terrestrial biology, or more rarely a combination
of scientific values).
In the case of field camps where the camp infrastructure
is left in situ year-round the resulting impacts can be
considered similar to bases although smaller in magnitude.
Nevertheless, temporary camps still comprise most of
the local impacts in remote areas. Described impacts in
these areas include expansion of human footprint associated
with land use and soil trampling (Campbell et al. 1998,
Ayres et al.2008,Tejedoet al. 2009), unintentional non-
native species introduction (Frenot et al. 2005, Convey et al.
2006, Hughes & Convey 2010), wastes (Connor 2008) and
soil pollution (Evans et al.2000,Snapeet al.2002).
Inevitably, scientific research activity has an environmental
cost including disturbance of neighbouring fauna (Pfeiffer
2005, De Villiers et al. 2006, De Villiers 2008), damage to
vegetation (Gremmen et al. 2003, Pertierra et al. 2013) and
direct interference with biotic and abiotic components of
the local ecosystem associated with scientific sampling.
A review of the scientific knowledge on impacts can be
found in Olech (1996) and Tin et al. (2009).
In this paper we study the human impact associated with
the activities of the Spanish camp (Fig. 1) which primarily
accommodated Limnopolar expeditions (2001–10) in the
surrounding area on Byers Peninsula. Limnopolar group
research was focused primarily on limnological studies on
Byers Peninsula and so the Spanish programme established
a field camp in a small vegetation-free area at the South
Beaches in 2001. Furthermore, this facility has also
accommodated other groups with scientific interests on
Byers Peninsula, and thus facilitated a wider range of
investigations than included in this analysis. Under the
auspices of the International Polar Year (IPY, 2007–09)
31 researchers from seven nations participated in the
2008–09 field campaign, hosted by the Spanish programme.
The field camp used at this time was later declared
the designated campsite in the revised management plan
for ASPA No. 126 (ATCM 2011) and declared an
‘International Field Camp’.
Byers Peninsula is an extensive ice-free area in the
western part of Livingston Island (South Shetland Islands,
62834'35''–62840'35''S, 60854'14''–61813'07''W). It contains
numerous lakes, some of which formed comparatively
recently, that have been the subject of extensive research
by the Spanish Limnopolar research group since 2001.
Byers Peninsula shows high biodiversity including breeding
populations of elephant seals, gentoo penguin, giant petrels,
skuas and other marine birds. Invertebrates include many
species of collembola (springtails), acari (mites) and the
dipterans Belgica antarctica Jacobs and Parochlus steinenii
(Gerke). The vegetation is extremely diverse and abundant
(Lindsay 1971), and includes Antarctica’s only two
native vascular plants (Deschampsia antarctica Desv. and
Colobanthus quitensis (Kunth) Bartl.), around fifty moss
species and over one hundred lichen species (ASPA No. 126
Management Plan, ATCM 2011). The peninsula also
contains sites of geological interest and abandoned refuges
and archaeological remains left by 19th century sealers
(Smith & Simpson 1987). In recognition of the uniqueness
and importance of Byers Peninsula it was originally
designated as a Specially Protected Area (SPA) in
1966, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1975
and finally an Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA
No. 126) in 1991, with the most recent version of the
Fig. 1. View of the Spanish camp at South Beaches, Byers
Peninsula. Picture taken on January 2010. Note that impacts
associated with the Chilean camp are not included in
this study.
308 LUIS R. PERTIERRA et al.
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area’s management plan agreed by the Antarctic Treaty
Consultative Meeting (ATCM) in 2011. ASPA designation
is the highest level of area protection within Antarctica and
includes a management plan which must be consulted and
adhered to by all those authorized by appropriate national
authorities to enter the protected area.
The natural and scientific values of Byers Peninsula
have been the subject of many studies in addition to those
carried out by the Spanish camp and have resulted in the
establishment of some other field camps located mainly at
coastal locations. Over the last decades, research groups
from several Antarctic Treaty Parties have established field
camps in other areas of Byers Peninsula, including
expeditions from the Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Spain, the
United Kingdom and the United States. Although the
camps were largely removed, it is still possible to identify
the locations of some of these camps by the presence of
litter/waste and disturbed ground. Away from the coast,
scientists have left meteorological stations, sensors, plots,
cairns and markers, some of which apparently are not
maintained regularly and might, in effect, be abandoned. All
expeditions that have been undertaken independently from
the Spanish camp research in Byers Peninsula during the
2001–10 period have not been included in this assessment.
Field camps are important for Antarctic research, but little
attempt has been made to monitor their impacts and often
no record of their location is made available publically,
making estimation of human footprint difficult. Intensity and
spatial extent of local impacts are dictated by the number
of visitors, how long they stay and where they go. These
activities may accumulate over time to produce impacts that
may be neither minor nor transitory, and may merit a higher
level of environmental impact assessment such as an Initial
Environmental Evaluation, as required in Annex I of the
Environmental Protocol. Dedicated management measures
are necessary to ensure the effective protection of the
Antarctic environment. These include integral Environmental
Impact Assessments (EIAs) with minimization, mitigation
and monitoring of impacts (Bastmeijer & Roura 2007, Tin
et al. 2009). The example of the Spanish camp is presented to
contribute to the evaluation and minimization of impacts on
Antarctic territories.
Materials and methods
To quantify the environmental costs associated with
the running of the Spanish camp on Byers Peninsula
we examined first the green house gas emissions of the
transport and camp operation, the use of resources on
the camp and the cumulative trampling pressure. Secondly,
we estimated the Limnopolar programme’s environmental
impacts and examined the environmental management
practices, based on available data. Finally, the scientific
outputs resulting from the group’s research at Byers
Peninsula were listed.
Quantification of total carbon footprint for the field
research camp on Byers Peninsula
Estimations of greenhouse gas emission per field
researcher and per field season (2001/02 to 2009/10)
were calculated. Total CO
2
equivalent emissions were
considered under two headings: 1) direct transportation
emissions (including aircraft transport of personnel to
gateway ports in South America and transport of personnel
by ship from South American ports) plus field camp
accommodation and activities, and 2) indirect transport
emissions associated with annual cargo transportation by
ship from Spain.
Spanish Antarctic land-based research is focused
predominantly on the South Shetland Islands. Thus, all
researchers reach Antarctica by flying to gateway ports in
South America and sailing to the Antarctic Peninsula.
Researchers were assumed to have departed from the
largest airport of their home country. Emissions derived
from air transportation to gateway ports were calculated
using the methodology of Amelung & Lamers (2007) and
Farreny et al. (2011), where CO
2
equivalent emissions are
obtained from fuel conversions. Punta Arenas (Chile) via
Santiago was the main gateway port for air transport
distance calculations. The alternative route of Ushuaia
(Argentina) via Buenos Aires is roughly similar in total
distance covered.
Data on oil consumption and total distance covered by
the Oceanographic Research Vessel (BIO) Las Palmas
were provided by the Spanish Navy. Distance covered was
measured from: i) Spain to the South American gateway
ports and back once per year (indirect costs), ii) from South
American gateway ports to Antarctica, and iii) travel
within the Antarctic Peninsula region (direct costs). This
distinction was made to enable a comparison with direct
emissions of other vessels.
Long distance cargo transportation and travelling costs
for researchers from their home country were included in
the CO
2
equivalent calculations. Emissions due to cargo
were calculated based upon the return voyage from
Cartagena in Spain to Punta Arenas in Chile, plus each
season’s return journeys to Antarctica for delivery of
investigators, refuelling, resupply and waste disposal. As
the ship also supported other scientists and stations in the
area, emissions attributed to supporting science on Byers
Peninsula were standardized and assigned proportionally.
CO
2
-equivalent emission resulting from the camp
activities was calculated based on fuel consumption
according to International Panel on Climate Change
conversion factor (Forster et al. 2007).
Quantification of field camp logistics, occupancy and
trampling footprint
The site logistic and research activities were accounted and
analysed in detail to establish and, where possible, quantify
IMPACTS OF FIELD RESEARCH ACTIVITY IN ANTARCTICA 309
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its potential cumulative environmental impact. Information
was collected from the camp annual reports (including
data on the daily occupation of the camp) while daily
consumptions of camp resources, as well as occupation
levels and research activities, were recorded systematically
by the Principal Investigator (PI) of Limnopolar project
who annually co-ordinated the use of the site.
Information on the routes travelled within Byers
Peninsula was collected for the period 2001/02 to 2009/10.
Data from 2007/08 season were not available, and no
fieldwork was undertaken during 2004/05. Locations within
the peninsula and distances between them were recorded
using GPS (Garmin Model 60CSx). Information on the
number of passes per route was first recorded through
dairies from Limnopolar group field participants, but other
research groups coincident in time with available recording
of their walks in the PI diaries are also included in
the calculations. We estimate that all tracks from more
than 80% of Spanish camp hosts are incorporated in the
analysis. Passes between the camp and the landing beach
were estimated indirectly due to the high frequency of use,
by multiplying number of occupants 3days 3four times
(i.e. an average of four traverses was estimated for each
person per day).
Analysis of local environmental impacts and
management actions
Environmental pressures on the local ecosystems are
next analysed with identification and status of impacts
around the camp, trampling disturbances throughout the
ASPA and all impact management efforts. Firstly, the
provisions to protect the local values of the ecosystems
contained in the ASPA No. 126 Management Plan were
reviewed. This included legal obligations concerning
environmental protection and management actions
detailed in the Environmental Protocol, as well as the
ASPA No. 126 Management Plan (ATCM 2011) that
contains mandatory provisions put in place to safeguard the
area’s environmental values.
Identification of impact were based primarily upon
provisions from the ASPA management plan, initial
observations in the field and existing literature, taking
into consideration minimization and mitigation of adopted
measures, and monitoring programmes currently in place at
the site. The status of impacts was obtained from either
previous studies with specific monitoring or indirectly
from field reports (such as wastes generated or potential
introduction of species), and current calculations of
Table I. Carbon emission directly associated with the Spanish field camp on Byers Peninsula.
Season Season
duration (d)
Number of
people
Transportation
emissions
Field camp
fuel emissions
Total CO
2
-Eq
per season
Mean CO
2
-Eq
per researcher
CO
2
-Eq flights (t) CO
2
-Eq vessel (t) CO
2
-Eq (t)
2001/02 74 11 21.21 132.17 0.8 154.18 14.02
2002/03 39 9 17.71 108.14 0.42 126.27 14.03
2003/04 59 7 13.87 84.11 0.63 98.61 14.09
2005/06 8 5 9.7 60.08 0.09 69.87 13.97
2006/07 83 14 23.48 168.21 0.89 192.58 13.76
2007/08 19 4 7.76 48.06 0.20 56.02 14.01
2008/09 82 31 63.86 372.47 0.88 437.21 14.10
2009/10 20 7 13.58 84.11 0.21 97.9 13.99
Mean 48 11 21.40 132.17 0.52 154.08 13.99
Total 384 88 171.17 1057.32 4.11 1232.6
Table II. Carbon emission indirectly associated with the Spanish field camp on Byers Peninsula.
Season Total researchers on Number of people Percentage of total (%) Cargo emissions Mean CO
2
-Eq (t)
SM Las Palmas on Byers Peninsula CO
2
-Eq (t) per researcher
2001/02 50 11 22.00 528.26 48.02
2002/03 52 9 17.30 478.03 53.11
2003/04 59 7 8.42 327.69 46.81
2005/06 42 5 11.90 320.80 64.16
2006/07 67 14 20.89 577.13 41.22
2007/08 52 4 7.69 212.46 53.11
2008/09 115 31 26.95 744.53 24.01
2009/10 109 7 6.42 177.38 25.34
Mean 68 11 15.19 420.78 44.25
Total 546 88 3366.28
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pressures (such as CO
2
emissions, trampling footprint)
combined with indicator studies. Minor impacts in the
wider environment were also listed. To our knowledge no
other impacts were associated with the camp in the ASPA.
The trampling disturbances in the ASPA were
established according to the carrying capacities of
representative terrestrial ecosystems. These have been
previously determined by indicator studies: in the case of
Tejedo et al. (2009) for soil fauna, where significant
damages to open soils was observed after 200 passes, and
for plant communities see Pertierra et al. (2013), where
lower resistances were found on cryptogam communities.
Therefore, the assessment of spatial pressures was based on
current pressure intensities resulting from operational
logistics in the camp and the trampling impacts around
Byers Peninsula according to the previous thresholds.
Finally, the management actions to minimize potential
environmental impacts on Byers Peninsula were evaluated
at three levels: 1) minimization of the level of pressure on
the environment, through the adoption of the precautionary
principle (Cooney & Dickson 2005), 2) mitigation of
emerging impacts, and 3) monitoring the ecosystems
response to the impact effects.
Results
Total carbon footprint supporting Byers Peninsula
camp’s field research
Results in Table I and II shows that most carbon emissions
are associated with transport of personnel and cargo to the
camp from Europe and South America. Personnel transport
on ships generated an average of 14 t CO
2
equivalents per
capita, similar to figures calculated for tourist ships.
In contrast, indirect emissions calculated for cargo were
around 44 t CO
2
equivalent per capita. To our knowledge
there is no data available with which to compare this figure.
Field emissions were minimal at less than one ton per year
for the whole camp. Overall, the larger the number of
researchers per season, the larger the emissions total. In
general, CO
2
equivalent emission per individual researcher
declined as the number of people in the camp increased,
probably due to increased sharing of cargo and logistics.
As most emissions were due to the transport of personnel
and cargo to Antarctica, the duration of the field camp
occupancy had little effect upon overall emissions each
season, whilst transport had an increased effect.
Field camp logistics, occupancy and trampling footprint
The field camp opened on 5 December 2001. Since 2001,
c. 15 000 kg of cargo have been transported by the BIO
Las Palmas and transferred to the shore by inflatable boat
and carried inland to the camp without use of land vehicles.
The camp facilities comprise two plastic igloos (c. 10 m
2
each, one functioning as a laboratory and the other for
living), one tent for storage and one tent for each individual
person in the camp. The facility was assembled in two
phases during November 2001 and November 2002. Once
complete, the camp occupied 2592m
2
on a raised beach in
sandy ground, c. 110 m from the coast. Being relatively
small the site made little visual impact in the local area
(Summerson & Riddle 2000). Thus, the visual impact of
Byers Peninsula camp is considered minimal due to the
small-scale of the year-round camp facilities (igloo huts),
although paths are also visible after surface snow has melted.
To date, the camp has been used for eight seasons
(2001/02 to 2009/10, but excluding 2004/05 when the camp
remained closed). The eight seasons allowed a total of
88 individual stays in the camp, with an average stay of
20.58 days per person. The cumulative number of person
days spent on Byers Peninsula during the period 2001–10
is 1811 days (equivalent to five individual person years).
Up to 31 researchers have stayed at the camp during any
one season, with duration of their stay varying between
7 and 31 days. Researchers from 13 different nations have
stayed there, particularly during the 2008–09 seasons when
the camp was used by an IPY project. Persistent noise
levels were limited to the generator. Figure 2 shows the
level of occupancy of the camp since first established.
The 3.5 kW generator used an estimated 3.74 litres of oil
per day. The generator was only used for scientific or
domestic purposes and fuel consumption was independent
of the number of researchers in the camp. To reduce waste
and grey water production food was pre-cooked and frozen
Fig. 2. Occupancy of the Spanish field camp on Byers Peninsula
(2001–10). The top graph represents the cumulative number
of days spent by researchers at the camp per season (black
bars) and in total (white bars). In the bottom graph the white
circles represent the mean duration in days of individual
researchers at the camp each season. The black circles
represent the total number of field researchers staying at the
camp each season.
IMPACTS OF FIELD RESEARCH ACTIVITY IN ANTARCTICA 311
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in Juan Carlos I Spanish Station (,40 km away) and sent
to the camp with other cargo. Freshwater for cooking and
cleaning was obtained from a nearby stream. The drinking
water was hand-filtered through a small water purifier.
Estimated water consumption was five litres per person
per day and c. 5.5 m
3
in total for the camp during a typical
season. To avoid contamination of the freshwater systems,
human liquid waste was collected in plastic bottles and
emptied into the sea below the low tide line. Human solid
wastes were collected and sent into the waste streams on
Fig. 3. Trampling footprint on Byers Peninsula of the Spanish Antarctic Programme 2001–10, excluding 2004/05 (no field season)
and 2007/08 (no data). a. The distribution and cumulative number of estimated passes during the period of the camp. b. &c. The
distribution and number of estimated passes during the International Polar Year (2008/09) and 2003/04 seasons, respectively.
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the ship to be managed with other rubbish. Camp rubbish
was separated into organic and non-organic material and
stored until it was shipped out. Waste consisted mostly of
plastic packaging from food and laboratory materials. All
bagged waste was shipped to South America for disposal
whilst human waste was disposed of through a sewage
waste treatment plant. No detailed record of the quantity of
solid waste produced is available, but is estimated at around
450 kg for the period 2001–10. All chemical waste was
stored in appropriate containers and disposed of through
Universidad Auto´ noma de Madrid (Spain) facilities.
To estimate the trampling footprint on Byers Peninsula
Fig. 3a shows the total number of passes recorded along
each route between 2001 and 2010, with most recorded
journeys to the landing beach (estimated as 6736 passes)
and Limnopolar Lake (636 passes) where defined paths had
developed. Limnopolar Lake was the main study site and
the site of an automatic meteorological station. Other routes
had fewer passes and in most cases, no visible tracks
existed, so trampling was more diffuse. Figure 3b & c
shows results for two individual years which represent
different patterns of research. Figure 3b shows movements
during a period of focused research by limnologists
(2003/04), while Fig. 3c shows movements during a year
of more diversified research activity (2008/09).
Local environmental impacts and management actions
Five main categories of environmental values were
described for Byers Peninsula: 1) large areas of ice-free
soils (Lo´ pez-Martı´nez et al. 1996, Navas et al. 2008),
2) extensive vegetation moss meadows and microbial mats
(Lindsay 1971), 3) terrestrial (Tejedo et al. 2009) and
4) marine biodiversity, and 5) the unique concentration of
freshwater bodies (Toro et al. 2007, Quesada et al. 2009).
These values were vulnerable to the following impacts:
i) soil and vegetation trampling by researchers, ii) non-
native species introduction to the area, particularly around
areas of intense human activity, i.e. the camp and
Limnopolar Lake, iii) disturbance of fauna around the
camp and the landing beach, iv) pollution of soils around
the camp, and v) contamination of freshwater bodies.
Trampling (Tejedo et al. 2009) was considered to be the
greatest environmental pressure to the protected values
due to the field activities of the researchers throughout the
peninsula (see Table III & Fig. 3), although research has
shown the terrestrial environment to be largely resilient to
trampling over the past ten years, with recovery occurring
within approximately five years if trampling is halted
(Tejedo et al. in press). The movement of personnel and
cargo into Byers Peninsula presented the opportunity for
the introduction of non-native species (Frenot et al. 2005,
Convey et al. 2006), but none were observed by biologists
at the site, although no systematic survey was undertaken.
Human interaction with wildlife was kept to a minimum.
The landing site contained large numbers of elephant seals,
which were avoided to the maximum extent possible. Here
a low interaction is expected to produce no disturbance
according to Burton & Van den Hoff (2002). A petrel
breeding colony located west of the camp was largely
Table III. Impact management for the Limnopolar expedition on Byers Peninsula. Impact management has been divided in three levels of action:
i) minimization of the intensity of the pressure, ii) mitigation of the possible adverse impacts, and iii) monitoring of the environmental response.
Impact i) Minimization of pressures ii) Mitigation of impacts iii) Monitoring of response
Soil and vegetation
trampling
No more than eight people staying at
the same time in the camp. Planned
and co-ordinated field activities.
Avoiding sensible biotopes.
Concentration in a field camp;
concentration in frequented paths;
dispersion in non-frequented.
Adverse effects in the camp area
on soil physical properties and
edaphic fauna. Recovery
estimated inc. 3–5 years.
Species introduction Bio-security procedures: dedicated
clothing, decontamination of boots,
and safety check-list for cargo.
Equipment cleaning measures
implemented. Avoiding lake
cross-contamination by use of
different mouthpieces.
Non-native species introductions
not detected. Systematic surveys.
Faunal disturbance Minimization of light, noise and
vibration from camp and expeditions.
Avoiding bird and mammal
concentrations (resting seals).
Precautionary distance procedures
followed. Generator shut with no
electric demand.
Impacts not detected. Not
monitored but no unusual record.
Soil pollution No dumping of any waste, use of
sterile materials, avoiding the use
of potentially dangerous products.
Field camp designed as a contention
area with fast dispersion and
renewal. Solid waste removed
from the area and treated.
Sporadic surveys of soil
pollution: organic pollutants and
heavy metals.
Stream water
contamination
Water supply from stream for drink
and personal cleanliness use only.
Purification based on tablets. Dry
cleaning of materials with no use
of washing products.
Separation of waste: storage of
human solid waste. Urine stored and
evacuated at sea. Other liquids stored
and removed.
Water use quantified. Water
quality not monitored due to zero
residual output.
IMPACTS OF FIELD RESEARCH ACTIVITY IN ANTARCTICA 313
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avoided as suggested by Pfeiffer (2005). Contact with
marine mammals at the camp was rare as the camp was far
enough inland to discourage animal visits. The penguin
colony, located at Devils Point c. 5 km away, was visited
rarely, following recommendations by Cobley & Shears
(1999) and Holmes et al. (2008). Barbosa et al. (2013)
documented Devils Point colony health as a reference
location to other sites.
In the case of pollutants the release of fuel to the
environment was limited to very small quantities
discharged by the engines of inflatable boats during
landings at the beach. No oil spills were reported in the
camp area, and the possibility of minor spills during
refuelling of the generator was minimized by using spill
trays and oil absorbing mats. Water bodies were considered
unaffected with no fuel spills reported in the stream near
the camp or in the lakes. Air pollution was restricted to
emissions from the generator. Cabrerizo et al. (2012)
recorded soil pollution around the camp.
Management actions primarily focused on the impacts in
the camp area, and developing trampling strategies around
the peninsula. Table III shows the list of management
actions and scientific data collected by researchers to reduce
impacts by the Limnopolar expedition on Byers Peninsula.
Discussion
Global costs and logistics operations
In this study we have attempted to estimate the
environmental pressures and likely impacts of ten years
of research at a remote field camp on Byers Peninsula
(Tables I & II). Greenhouse gas emissions are still a normal
component of the environmental cost of research in remote
areas, but are insignificant compared to greenhouse gas
emissions globally and justified by the benefit Antarctic
science has made to our understanding of global and
regional climate change (Vaughan et al. 2003, Steig et al.
2009). Total carbon emissions are predominantly from
transport showing similar values (c. 14 t CO
2
equivalent
emissions) to those obtained for Antarctic tourism cruises
(Farreny et al. 2011). Efforts to reduce fuel use and
associated emissions have been made by COMNAP,
although this may be driven by concerns over increases
in the cost of fossil fuels, as well as for environmental
reasons (Tin et al. 2009). Since most CO
2
is emitted during
transport of cargo and personnel and very little with the
actual running of the camp, science output might be
enhanced with little increase in greenhouse emissions
by increasing the duration of time at the field site.
Nevertheless, this may have to be balanced against any
increase in other, more local, environmental pressures and
science requirements.
Given the vulnerability and uniqueness of Byers
Peninsula, as recognized by its status as an ASPA, efforts
should be focused on minimizing local environmental
impacts. With this in mind the Spanish Camp was
re-designated as an International Field Camp in 2010,
making it available to scientist from other nations, and
focusing impacts on this existing impacted site. Inevitably,
the camp area has experienced cumulative impacts
predominantly through trampling of the camp area. The
igloo huts were made available for other scientists to use,
following consultation with the Spanish Polar Committee.
Availability of information intended to reduce impacts
Anyone undertaking Antarctic research in Byers Peninsula
ASPA (or any other Antarctic location) should look for
guidance to help ensure environmental impacts are kept
to a minimum. The Protocol on Environmental Protection
to the Antarctic Treaty sets out minimum standards
of environmental protection. Annex V of the Protocol
provides guidance on Antarctic Protected Areas including
ASPAs. Each ASPA has a management plan, which should
set out mandatory and site-specific requirement to ensure a
level of environmental protection but with no impact
studies nor impact monitoring in the majority of ASPAs
there is little information on the level of human impacts
most ASPAs can withstand/recover from, and decisions
on appropriate levels of human activity within ASPAs
is generally guesswork, if considered at all. A lack of
co-ordination between Parties makes implementation of
any limits of human activity difficult if not impossible.
During the revision of the Byers Peninsula ASPA
Management Plan in 2010, undertaken by the United
Kingdom, Spain and Chile, new strategies were developed
to further improve environmental standards and minimize
human impacts. These included the designation of the field
camp as an International Field Camp, marking of visible
paths to encourage the concentration of trampling impacts
on ground disturbed already and designation of zones
where access is restricted. A summary of human impact to
that point was also included in the management plan.
Management of field activities and associated impacts
Earlier studies have shown that research on Byers Peninsula
may result in potential impacts on the environment (Tejedo
et al. 2009) but this should not compromise the qualities and
characteristics of the site that make it of value (including
scientific value) in the first instance. However, monitoring is
required to ensure that the ecosystems are resilient, are not
being damaged permanently, that human presence is below
the carrying capacity for the location (Table III) and to
identify any new activities that produce threats to the
Antarctic environment. In the case of trampling management
the SCAR Code of Conduct (2009) indicates one basic
strategy: follow existing paths when necessary in order to
avoid disturbing large areas. For this reasons two frequently
314 LUIS R. PERTIERRA et al.
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used paths (to landing beach and to Limnopolar Lake) were
defined. For Byers Peninsula, soil recovery rates from
trampling impacts were considered acceptable (3–5 years;
Tejedo et al. in press), although it is clear from Fig. 3 that the
distribution and intensity of trampling impacts will vary
depending upon the type and requirements of the science
performed in any given year (see Fig. 3b & c). Biosecurity
measures were used to reduce the risk of non-native
introductions, but given the rate of climate warming in the
region and the level of visitation, Byers Peninsula may be
particularly vulnerable to non-native species introductions
(Hughes & Convey 2010, CEP 2011). Looking forward,
a similar strategic use of the Byers Peninsula ASPA, including
periods when some sites are not visited to allow recovery,
may be appropriate. To date, a strategic management
approach has been difficult to achieve as each nation
operating in the area is acting independently and multi-party
coordination of activities, in practice, has not occurred,
despite this recommendation within the ASPA management
plan. Given that human presence at the site is unlikely to
cease, restrictions with higher standards could be applied in
order to minimize environmental impacts and protect some
zones for specific scientific purposes. To some extent, this
has been done recently within the Byers Peninsula ASPA
with the creation of two zones where access is restricted to
those undertaking molecular and microbiological research
with appropriately high quarantine standards (see http://
www.ats.aq/documents/recatt/att474_e.pdf).
Optimization of science and outreach
Application of basic environmental standards, adequate
management and appropriate knowledge of the resilience
of the area to impacts can minimize the likelihood of
irreversible impacts. Nonetheless impacts on the area are
only permitted by research safeguarding the natural and
scientific values in this protected area according to the
management plan. Here, the isolation and pristine nature of
the water bodies in Byers Peninsula make it an exceptional
site for limnological research (Quesada et al. 2009).
Scientists undertaking research in remote areas that could
be considered pristine face the paradox that the research
itself may cause environmental degradation at some level.
It could be argued that only research attempting to answer
the most critical science questions should be undertaken in
such locations as their value for future science might be
diminished (see Hughes et al. 2011). Although potentially
controversial, the benefit of undertaking each science
project in Antarctica may need to be balanced against the
environmental impact and, in some cases, the irreversible
change it may cause. For precautionary reasons all research
activities in Antarctica should at least maximize the
scientific benefits. In the case of the Limnopolar group
every effort was made to publish data in peer-reviewed
journals and to use this science to inform the revision of the
ASPA management plan. Scientific outputs were also
optimized by involving experts from a range of
disciplines from other nations, particularly as part of the
IPY. Finally, efforts were made to engage the general
public in the work undertaken at the site and its key role for
understanding the global change.
An important number of scientific publications including
the work undertaken on Byers Peninsula through the
Spanish camp (see Benayas et al. 2013) has been achieved
between 2001 and 2010, including several high profile
publications (Lo´ pez-Bueno et al. 2009, Kleinteich et al.
2012). In the case of the Limnopolar group there have
also been six peer-reviewed chapters in scientific books,
three non-peer review publications and several articles in
popular science magazines. Scientific activity has also
resulted in collection of long-term datasets characterizing
lakewater and meteorological parameters as well as viral
biodiversity surveys, data on human impacts, microbial
mat biodiversity surveys, and botanical, permafrost and
climate studies. Research also contributed to the major
revision of the ASPA management plan completed in
2011. Education has also been an important output of the
Limnopolar expeditions to Byers Peninsula, including
teaching of science associated with the area in several
postgraduate courses and conferences and the training of
several Masters and PhD students. Further publications
using or building upon data already collected are expected
in the coming years.
Conclusions
Experience at Byers Peninsula has highlighted the need for
continuous environmental management of local impacts
during field activities. Management should consider: i) pre-
identifying possible impacts, ii) adapting logistical practices
on a case by case basis, iii) monitoring activities and
potential impacts, and iv) initiating specific environmental
studies if considered necessary. Spanish scientists have
undertaken precautionary monitoring and developed impact
minimization strategies. For example, the route to
Limnopolar Lake and to the field camp from the beach
landing site were designated sacrificial paths to reduce wider
impact. To avoid damage to vegetation, scientists were
directed to walk on open soil areas instead of mosses, which
however, produced disturbance to soil fauna which was
consequently the subject of a further monitoring project.
Scientific results from the Spanish camp were exploited
through international co-operation with initiatives such as
the IPY and a diverse outreach. Operational activities
focused on the allocation of other groups interested on
Byers Peninsula to avoid as much as possible the
duplication of logistics, also the camp facility was
re-used as the international field camp. However, much
more could be achieved in international coordination of
IMPACTS OF FIELD RESEARCH ACTIVITY IN ANTARCTICA 315
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activities. Scientific benefits in these sensitive areas need to
be balanced against environmental impacts to safeguard
their future scientific value.
Acknowledgements
This paper was contributed to by two projects:
LIMNOPOLAR and EBA-ANTARCTICA. It was
supported by the Spanish Government (CGL2005-0654,
POL2006-06533, CGL2007-28761-E/ANT, CTM2009-
06604-E and CTM2010-11613-E). Permission to inspect
the ASPA was granted on 2009/10 season by the Spanish
Polar Committee. The publication of this paper has been
funded by the grant CTM2011-12973-E by the Ministerio
de Ciencia e Innovacio´ n (Spain). We would like to thank
the Spanish Polar Committee, the SM BIO Las Palmas of
the Spanish Navy, the Unit of Marine Technology (UMT)
from CSIC, the Spanish Station Juan Carlos I and the UTM
members that provided support to Byers Peninsula camp.
We thank Peter Fretwell (BAS) for cartographic support
and all those on Byers Peninsula who contributed to this
research project. This paper also contributes to the British
Antarctic Survey Polar Science for Planet Earth (PSPE)
Environment Office Long-term Monitoring and Survey
project. Finally, we thank the anonymous reviewers for
their useful comments.
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IMPACTS OF FIELD RESEARCH ACTIVITY IN ANTARCTICA 317
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... Recorded extremely high metal concentrations in soils at fire sites, reaching several grams per kilogram of soil according to the data (Guerra et al. 2011, Guerra et al. 2013, refer to exceptional cases; probably the sources of pollution were the burning station's debris. Among the list of pollution sources, paints from old painted surfaces of abandoned buildings (Pertierra et al. 2013) as well as field seasonal bases (De Lima Neto et al. 2017) are indicated. As a secondary source of soil contamination penguins are considered, as far as soil contamination at penguins nesting areas was detected (Celis et al. 2015, Vlček et al. 2017, Cipro et al. 2018. ...
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The content of trace elements in the soils of the Vecherny Oasis (Enderby Land, East Antarctica), where the construction of the Belarusian Antarctic Station started in December 2015, is considered. The results of the research are based on data collected during four Belarusian Antarctic expeditions in the period from 2011 to 2017, and analytical testing of soil samples taken from impacted and non-impacted sites. A total of 22 soil samples were analyzed for the content of trace elements; to compare the levels of accumulation and possible migration pathways, 7 samples of bottom sediments were also analyzed. Determination of trace elements was carried out using the AAS method (Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb, Ni, Zn, Fe, Mn) and emission spectral analysis (about 40 elements). The average values and range of concentrations of trace elements in soils and bottom sediments of the oasis are presented. The possible dependence of the trace elements content on the location positions in the landscape and on the sources of impact is discussed. It is shown, that the variability of metals content in soil profile for background site is low. In comparison with other oases of Antarctica no hotspots have been revealed and no significant areas of soil contamination have been identified yet, which is largely due to the fragmentation of the soil cover and lack of significant sources of pollution.
... The measured severity of disturbances depends on soil type, regional climate, mode and intensity of disturbance (foot versus vehicle), how dynamic the landscape is, and what component of the ecosystem is being investigated. Disturbances resulting from foot traffic and field camps usually cover a small area, but are often clearly visible [16]. Foot tracks form readily in certain vulnerable soils and may remain visible for many years after the event [4,10]. ...
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.
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The representation of Antarctica as the last wilderness overlooks not only the presence of humans but also of material things, and does not reflect the reality of contemporary Antarctica. Human-thing relationships have existed there, although largely unnoticed, since the nineteenth century. This article contributes to thinking about the genealogy of human-thing relationships in Antarctica by presenting an analysis of how the process of living with things has developed over time. Based on available historical and archaeological information, this study explores human-thing relationships during sealing and whaling activities, inside the huts of the Heroic Era of Antarctic exploration, throughout the period of the settlement of permanent scientific stations, and after the coming into force of the Madrid Protocol. From an archaeological perspective this article emphasises how things are not inert, they change, establish relations and that humans in Antarctica have often become entrapped in their relations with things. It is my hope that this introductory exploration into the topic will stimulate critical thoughts on human-thing relationships in Antarctica.
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The types and distributions of anthropogenic rubbish have been documented at Bunger Hills, East Antarctica. The area has been the site of scientific research stations from 1958 to the present. Rubbish types include deliberately or negligently discarded items (gas cylinders, broken glass), abandoned unserviceable equipment (boats, vehicles, scientific equipment), spills (chemicals, fuel, oil) and the slow collapse of old buildings. Some rubbish remained where it was left, while other material was redistributed by strong winds. Modern expeditioner training should limit the production of new rubbish, while inadvertent wind dispersal of rubbish from old station buildings could be minimized by better management of these structures and their surrounds. Buildings and other constructed items need ongoing maintenance if they are not to break down and be distributed by wind, or they should be removed within a reasonable period.
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We present a life cycle assessment (LCA) of the operation of Casey Station in Antarctica. The LCA included quantifying material and energy flows, modeling of elementary flows, and subsequent environmental impacts. Environmental impacts were dominated by emissions associated with freight operations and electricity cogeneration. A participatory design approach was used to identify options to reduce environmental impacts, which included improving freight efficiency, reducing the temperature setpoint of the living quarters, and installing alternative energy systems. These options were then assessed using LCA, and have the potential to reduce environmental impacts by between 2% and 19.1%, depending on the environmental indicator.
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The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (the Madrid Protocol) came into force in 1998 and mandates protection for the wilderness values of Antarctica. Based on the limited data that are publicly available, we made lower bound estimates of the long-term and transient human footprints on terrestrial Antarctica for the period 2016–2018. We found that there has been an 11% increase in the number of research stations and a cumulative three-fold increase in the number of tourist landing sites since 1998. Both long-term and transient human footprints extend across the continent’s interior. The pace of implementation of the Madrid Protocol’s requirement to protect wilderness values lags far behind that of the expansion of the human footprint. Research on definitions and methods of identifying wilderness has progressed, however, and offers effective tools to aid with Protocol implementation. A review of documents from the website of the Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty from the last 20 years indicates that Treaty Parties have considered the protection of wilderness values in environmental impact assessments, designation of protected areas, and discussions at Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings and meetings of the Committee for Environmental Protection. While there has been progress in providing guidance on wilderness values in non-binding guidelines, Treaty Parties’ engagement in the protection of wilderness values remains low.
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Wilderness is a vital Antarctic symbol. The United States’ extensive experience of wilderness protection at home and long-standing engagement in the Antarctic Treaty System make it an ideal candidate to galvanise support in the protection of Antarctica’s wilderness values. As a democracy, the nation’s policies can be influenced by its people’s values. This study aims to contribute to the protection of Antarctica’s wilderness values by examining the interrelationships between some Americans’ perceptions of wilderness and Antarctica and wilderness management in the US. Using ethnographic interviews and questionnaires, we collected information on perceptions of wilderness in general, and the Antarctic wilderness in particular, from university students and community members in the southern and Midwestern US on three occasions between 2012 and 2013. A total of 462 responses were analysed. Participants had low levels of knowledge about Antarctica. They relied on their cultural understandings of wilderness, which were distinctly American, to conceptualise Antarctica’s wilderness values. Many participants expressed a desire to maintain and protect wilderness areas from development, protect animal species and refrain from degradation of the land. The majority of participants stated that the importance of Antarctica lies in it being one of the world’s last great wildernesses and an important component of the Earth’s climate system. An overwhelming majority supported designating Antarctica as a wilderness reserve where development of infrastructure is limited. Furthermore, study participants’ low levels of knowledge about Antarctica and the complex relationships between science, Antarctica and climate change raise questions about forms of governance and human engagement in the Antarctic wilderness that can be truly of interest to humankind.
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From 2001-2005, a project was undertaken on subantarctic Macquarie Island to investigate the variation in responses to pedestrian activity by King Aptenodytes patagonicus, Gentoo Pygoscelis papua and Royal Eudyptes schlegeli penguins. The overall aim was to produce management-oriented information both for commercial tourism in the subantarctic and Antarctic, and for Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties. A series of experimental and observational studies were employed to quantify aspects of physiology, behaviour and reproductive success of these three species of subantarctic penguins when exposed to pedestrian activity - the most common form of human activity on Macquarie Island. Key aspects of penguin ecology likely to yield information valuable to management were investigated, including: 1) the efficacy of current minimum approach distance guidelines for visitation to penguins; 2) the effect of visitor group size on penguin responses to pedestrian activity; 3) the role of habituation in penguin responses to pedestrian activity; 4) the phase of breeding / moult during which penguins are most sensitive to pedestrian activity; and 5) comparative responses to human activity between the three species examined. This paper describes key results from these five studies, and the application for management of humanpenguin interactions on Macquarie Island and other subantarctic and Antarctic locations.
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Since the exploration of Antarctica began, procedures for dealing with human wastes have changed considerably. The establishment of research stations made it necessary to provide for sewage disposal. However, the introduction of advanced wastewater treatment processes has been driven largely by an intensifying concern to protect the Antarctic environment. A key step was the adoption by Antarctic Treaty nations of the so-called Madrid Protocol, in which minimum standards for sewage treatment and disposal are prescribed. The provisions of this protocol are not particularly onerous and some countries have elected to go beyond them, and to treat Antarctic research station wastewater as they would at home. Transferring treatment technologies to Antarctica is not simple because the remoteness, isolation, weather and other local conditions impose a variety of unusual constraints on plant design. The evolution of advanced treatment plant designs is examined. Most countries have opted for biofilm-based processes, with Rotating Biological Contactors (RBC) favoured initially while more recently contact aeration systems have been preferred. Sludges are now generally repatriated, with a diversity of sludge dewatering techniques being used. The evolution of treatment process designs is expected to continue, with growing use, especially at inland stations, of sophisticated processes such as membrane technologies and thermally efficient evaporative techniques.
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We assessed the impact of human trampling in three different habitats on Marion Island (46°50'S, 37°50'E). The habitats were (1) mires with wet, peaty soils and grass- and bryophyte-dominated vegetation; (2) slopes with relatively dry mineral soils, dominated by small ferns and dwarf shrub; and (3) feldmark on dry mineral soils with an open vegetation of cushion dicots and bryophytes. We examined existing walking tracks on the island. Track width (25 to 800 cm) increased with soil moisture content. Trampling reduced vegetation height, total cover, and species richness in mires and feldmark and vegetation height and herb layer cover (but not bryophyte cover or species richness) in slopes. In mires, most species were negatively affected by trampling, but in slopes trampling increased the cover of 6 out of 9 significantly affected species. The total number of species in all trampled plots in mire and feldmark communities was 10% lower, but in slopes 28% higher, than in control plots. The impact of trampling differed between growth forms. Cushion dicot, shrub, and fern covers were reduced, whereas graminoid and pleurocarpous moss covers were unaffected or increased with trampling. Trampling reduced the cover of most bryophyte species, but it did increase the cover of some. In the slope habitat, destruction by trampling of the closed herb canopy allows increased light penetration and makes the habitat more favorable for small plants such as bryophytes. We attribute the differences in how the vegetation of different habitats responds to trampling to differences in the structure of the original vegetation as well as differences in soil characteristics, especially the soil's structural stability under pressure.