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Monitoring of Human Impacts in the South-west of King George Island (Antarctic)

Authors:

Abstract

Increasing pressure from human activities leads to negative impacts on the Antarctic terrestrial environment. The southwestern part of King George Island, South Shetland Islands, is characterized by high biodiversity and rich fossil deposits. The operation of six permanent stations and an airstrip turns the Fildes Peninsula into a superregional logistical hub. The regular overlap in space and time of different interests, from scientific research, nature conservation, protection of geological and historical values, station operations, transport logistics and tourism activities results in a remarkable conflict among the multiple uses and the legal requirements of environmental protection. In previous studies (2003-2006, 2008-2012) we represented a first comprehensive assessment of the environmental situation in the Fildes Region providing the base for a risk analysis and proposal of possible management modules. Furthermore, we showed trends within the wide spectrum of human activities. A variety of shortcomings e.g. regarding waste and fuel handling as well as a substantial lack of coordination and cooperation were documented. The aim of our recent research is to update the environmental evaluation by monitoring the distribution of breeding sites of all bird and seal species in the Maxwell Bay in cooperation with Korean researchers. A main focus lies on the recording of human activities and their associated environmental impacts in the Fildes region. Some improvements regarding e.g. waste and fuel management are in opposition with persistent breaches of the legal requirements for environmental protection that apply in the area. We believe that scientific and environmental values need to be safeguarded by the immediate implementation effective management measures along with an accompanying monitoring scheme. If the local stakeholders do not agree upon a more comprehensive and broad-scale management approach (e.g. Antarctic Specially Managed Area) the region will represent a cautionary paradigm as the increasing environmental impacts will results in a further degradation of the habitat.
Institut für
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Ökologie
Monitoring of Human Impacts
in the South-west of King George Island (Antarctic)
C. Braun1, J. Esefeld1, T. Guetter1, S. Janowski2, J. Krietsch1,
A. Nordt3, M. Stelter1, H.-U. Peter1
1 Polar & Bird Ecology Group, Institute of Ecology, University of Jena, Dornburger Strasse 159, 07743 Jena, Germany
2 Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology, University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 364, 69120, Heidelberg, Germany
3 Institute of Botany and Landscape Ecology, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-University, Grimmer Strasse 88, 17487 Greifswald, Germany
Introduction - Fildes Region
One of the largest ice-free areas in the maritime
Antarctic and characterized by high biodiversity and
rich fossil deposits (two Antarctic Specially Protected
Areas/ASPA designated)
Hosting six permanent Antarctic stations and an
airport, turning the area into a major logistical hub for
the Antarctic Peninsula
Unique concentration of different forms of human
activities: scientific research, station operations,
transport logistics and tourism activities
Substantial overlap of human activities in space and
time, leading to conflict of interests between the
multiple human uses and nature conservation,
protection of geological and historical values
Detailed information gained from two previous studies
(2003-2006, 2008-2012) about fauna, flora and the
environmental situation published in Braun et al. 2012
&
in press
and Peter et al. 2008 & 2013
Tasks of the recent monitoring period (2012-2014):
update of the environmental evaluation by
GPS/GIS-based monitoring of birds and seals
recording of human activities and their associated
environmental impacts
Contact:
Christina Braun
Polar & Bird Ecology Group, Institute of Ecology, University of Jena,
Dornburger Strasse 159, 07743 Jena, Germany
email: christina.braun77@gmx.de
Continuing trend of increasing
gentoo and decreasing Adélie
penguin breeding pair numbers
on Ardley Island
Exemplary results
see also:
Braun, C., Hertel, F., et al. (in press): Environmental Situation and Management Challenges for the Fildes Peninsula Region. In: T. Tin, D. Liggett, P. Maher,
M.E. Lamers. The Future of Antarctica: Human impacts, strategic planning, and values for conservation, Springer. ISBN: 978-94-007-6582-5.
Braun, C., Mustafa, O., et al. (2012): Environmental Monitoring and Management Proposals for the Fildes Region (King George Island, Antarctica). Polar
Research 31, 1-18.
Peter, H.-U., Braun, C., et al. (2013): The current environmental situation and proposals for the management of the Fildes Peninsula Region. German Federal
Environment Agency, Dessau. http://www.umweltdaten.de/publikationen/fpdf-l/4424.pdf.
Peter, H.-U., Buesser, C., et al. (2008): Risk assessment for the Fildes Peninsula and Ardley Island, and the development of management plans for their
designation as Antarctic Specially Protected or Specially Managed Areas. German Federal Environment Agency, Dessau.
http://www.umweltdaten.de/publikationen/fpdf-l/3478.pdf.
Conclusions
Long-time monitoring confirmed penguin population trends and revealed repeated nest site shifts in SGP, likely due to human disturbance.
Human impact: Some improvements regarding e.g. waste and fuel management are accompanied by repeated activities which are harmful
to the local environment and seem to be not in line with legal environmental requirements.
Scientific and environmental values need to be safeguarded e.g. by the immediate implementation of effective management measures
along with an accompanying monitoring scheme.
If the local stakeholders do not agree upon a more comprehensive and broad-scale management approach (e.g. Antarctic Specially
Managed Area) it is suspected that the region will represent a cautionary paradigm as the increasing environmental impacts will result in a
further degradation of the habitat.
This project was funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (grant Nr. BMU 3711 87 100).
The responsibility for the content of this publication rests solely with the authors.
Season
1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015
Breeding pair number
Gentoo- & Adélie penguins
0
2000
4000
6000
Chinstrap penguins
0
50
100
150
200
Mitigation measures following a major
oil spill were largely inadequate.
Enduring existence of open waste
deposits (persistent and temporal)
Stable population of southern
giant petrels (SGP) but with
significant local changes in
several sub-colonies Destruction of fossil beach ridges and
bird breeding sites caused by
extraction of construction material
Extensive damage of vegetation and
disturbance of birds by unnecessary
vehicle use beyond the road network
Season
1984
2003
2004
2005
2006
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
Breeding pair number
0
100
200
300
400
500
Breding pair number
* data incomplete
Breeding success in %
0
20
40
60
80
100
Breeding success
*
*
Diesel plume
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