6.2 Impacts and management:
Tourists visit Antarctica mainly during the warmer austral summer months of November to March and visit the same locations intensifying the human impacts on Antarctica.
Students interpret and analyse picture information by using the downloadable sheet.
Extra information on pictures:
Tourists may come too close to penguins (or other animals) on Antarctica which may affect their breeding and/or feeding habits. Studies by the British Antarctic Survey have shown that there is minimal disturbance to penguins by tourists at present although this could change with increases in tourist numbers.
Trampling on fragile vegetation. Antarctica has a limited variety of flora. Antarctica has 200 species of lichens and over 50 species of mosses and liverworts, fungi and over 700 species of algae. There are two flowering plants. Without education prior to landing on Antarctica, tourists could inadvertently damage fragile mosses and lichens growing on exposed rocks, impacting on fragile habitats.
Introduction of alien species. This is a dandelion (a flowering plant) and a pollinating insect in south Georgia. Both are alien to sub – Antarctica and the areas in the sub-Antarctic could act as a spring – board for alien species to come into Antarctica. Tourists need to carefully clean foot ware to ensure spores and seeds are not introduced from outside Antarctica.
Ships polluting the environment with fuel and the risk of sinking poses threats from shipwrecks and oil spills on the marine environment and animals impacting the whole Antarctic ecosystem. Between December 2008 and April 2009 there were 2 rescue efforts for stranded ships in Antarctic waters. With increasing numbers of tourists, the possibility of ship disasters (e.g. MS Explorer which sunk in 2007) and the increased quantity of fuel used from tourist ships could impact on marine and terrestrial ecosystems in the future.
The activity in this section may be treated as a starter, you may get students to prepare the reading in advance or you may choose to spend a larger section of time on this.
In reality Antarctica is not a ‘pristine’ environment. There have been plenty of impacts by humans in the past. Commercial whalers and sealers decimated populations of these species, scientists in the past, left piles of rubbish, burnt it or threw it into the sea. The remains of these impacts still exist. Tourists however, are very well educated on the Antarctic ships about ways of behaving in Antarctica to ensure that the environmental impacts of visits today are reduced. However, although recent studies have shown that tourism is currently sustainable at present levels, these impacts remain a real threat in the future, particularly if numbers of visitors continue to increase.
As an introduction to one of the impacts, students consider the impacts that seed and spore introduction from abroad could have on the future of Antarctic, why this is an important impact and how the management of tourists to prevent this is crucial. This task enables students to explore on-line media resources and provides an opportunity to discuss the impacts of human interaction with the fragile Antarctic environment.