The impact of human activity on Antarctica Case Study

A case study on the impacts of human activity in Antarctica for the AQA cold environments topic at AS. 

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  • Created on: 07-03-13 17:23
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Rhiannon TynenAntarctica and the Southern Ocean Case Study 05/03/2013
The discovery of the islands of the southern ocean in the eighteenth century led to the
start of exploitation of the area. A number of economic activities have taken place in the
It began in the 18th century on and around the island of South Georgia. By 1800, the fur
seals of South Georgia were wiped out and interest then centred on the South Shetland
Islands. Within 3 years, over 300 000 seals had been killed and the population had been
virtually eradicated. This was exploitation at its worst, with no thought given to future
It began in the nineteenth century. The main targets were blue and right whales; the
main products, oil and whalebone. As the whale population of the North Atlantic became
reduced by massive exploitation, the whalers turned their attention to the Southern
Ocean. Whalers sailed from several countries in the northern hemisphere especially
Norway, the USA and UK.
In 1904, Norwegians developed Grytviken on South Georgia, which at its height employed
over 300 people. The range of products increased to include meat meal, bone meal, meat
extract, and frozen whale meat. Grytviken was abandoned in 1965 because whale stocks
were becoming seriously depleted and whaling was no longer commercially viable.
Fishing has now replaced whaling in the area. In the 1960s, Russian ships began to exploit
the Southern Ocean for a number of fish species, including the Antarctic Rock cod.
Concerns have been expressed recently over the number of fish being taken, particularly
fishing for krill by the Russians and Japanese. Krill underpins the whole of the Southern
Ocean food web and scientists do not know how many krill can be taken before the
ecosystem is harmed.
Antarctic tourism is of three types:
Camping trips for naturalists, photographers and journalists.
Ship-board visits, largely by cruise ships.
Over-flights ­ restarted after 20 years following crash on Mount Erebus, where all
passengers died.
Research shows that the Antarctic environment has been little affected:
Antarctic tourism is a well-run industry, living up to its sound record for
environmental concern.
Guidelines are widely accepted by operators and tourists alike, but they need
updating to include the environmental protocol of the UN.
Damage to vegetation (especially fragile moss mat) is due to natural causes, such
as breeding seals.
No litter is attributed to tourists; they tend to be concerned about the waste they
see around the scientific research stations.
Seals are largely indifferent to the presence of humans.

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Rhiannon TynenAntarctica and the Southern Ocean Case Study 05/03/2013
Out of 200 lasting sites surveyed only 5% showed any wear and tear. These need
to be rested, but at present there is no mechanism to implement this type of
Despite these encouraging signs, there are some concerns:
The Antarctic ecosystem is extremely fragile ­ disturbances leave their imprint for
a long time.
The summer tourist season coincides with peak wildlife breeding periods.…read more


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