University Of Tasmania
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Our footprint on Antarctica competes with nature for rare ice-free land

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-26, 07:40 authored by Shaun Brooks, Julia Jabour, van den Hoff, J, Bergstrom, DM
Construction and operation of research stations present the most pronounced human impacts on the Antarctic continent across a wide range of environmental values. Despite Antarctic Treaty Parties committing themselves to the comprehensive protection of the environment, data on the spatial extent of impacts from their activities have been limited. To quantify this, we examined the area of building and ground disturbance across the entire continent using GIS mapping of satellite imagery. Here, we report the footprint of all buildings to be >390,000 m2, with an additional disturbance footprint of >5,200,000 m2 just on ice-free land. These create a visual footprint similar in size to the total ice-free area of Antarctica, and impact over half of all large coastal ice-free areas. Our data demonstrate human impacts are disproportionately concentrated in some of the most sensitive environments, with consequential implications for conservation management. This is the highest resolution measurement of the extent of infrastructure across the continent to-date and can be used to inform management decisions to balance sustainable scientific-use and environmental protection of the Antarctic environment.


Publication title

Nature Sustainability




Conservatorium of Music


Nature Publishing Group

Publication status

  • Published

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  • Open

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