Impacts and Management
Antarctica is an incredible tourist destination of icebergs, mountains, glaciers and wildlife. Tourists are attracted by its scenery, wildlife, adventure activities and remoteness.
Visitor numbers to Antarctica have increased rapidly with more than 37,800 tourists visiting Antarctica in 2008-09. Visits are confined to the warmer austral summer months and the majority of visits are to the Antarctic Peninsula. This increase in visitors, confined to certain areas and intensified over certain months raises questions about the sustainability and environmental impact of so many people visiting such a fragile environment.
The photo below shows two alien species in one go! The first hoverfly (a pollinating insect) ever recorded on South Georgia in the sub – Antarctic, on a dandelion flower. Species could use the sub – Antarctic as a ‘jumping off point’ to travel to Antarctica in the future.
Tourists visit Antarctica because it is so ‘pristine‘, untouched and natural. But could seeds and spores on tourists’ clothes or small animals on tourist ships be inadvertently introduced and change this fragile ecosystem forever? Antarctica’s remoteness has prevented natural introductions of new species or introductions from humans due to the lack of human activity on the continent. Could this be under threat from invading species brought by tourists arriving from abroad? What will be the effect of climate change on the introduction of alien species?
Student activity 2
Minimising the impact on penguins
The British Antarctic Survey has the longest running study into the impact of tourists in Antarctica based at Port Lockroy one of the most popular destinations with more than 16,000 visitors in the 2007/08 season.
Suggest measures that could be taken to minimise the impact of the tourists.
Group sizes are restricted to 20 and landings must be staggered throughout the day.
Visitors also need to remain outside the natural boundary of the colony
Keep at least five metres from wildlife
Give the birds the right of way, there are ‘penguin highways’ down to the beach with the birds going out foraging, so you mustn’t block their tracks