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Human Footprint on Antarctica Measured for First Time

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The full extent of the human “footprint” on Antarctica has been revealed for the first time using satellite images to measure stations, huts, runways, waste sites and tourist camps at 158 locations.

The study found that more than half of all large ice-free coastal areas of Antarctica have now been disturbed by human activity. Buildings alone cover more than 390,000 m2 of land, while the visual footprint of human activity extends to more than 93,000 km2.

The lead author of the study published in Nature Sustainability (, PhD student Shaun Brooks of the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, said measuring the area impacted by humans was important for Antarctic conservation and environmental management. “Although the 53 countries that have signed the Antarctic Treaty agreed to protect the Antarctic environment, until now there has been only limited data on the spatial extent of human activity on the continent,” Brooks said. “Our research shows that human impacts are the greatest on land that is also the most environmentally sensitive – ice-free areas within a few kilometres of the coast.

“Ice-free land supports the continent’s greatest diversity of flora and fauna, including iconic species such as Adelie penguins, and provides the most accessible areas for marine...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.