On their mission to the moon in 1969 the Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin created arguably the most famous footprints ever. Since the time the astronauts of the Apollo 11 Mission stepped onto the surface of our satellite their footprints remain almost unchanged. And as no breath of wind will ever be able to blow them away they will be visible forever.
The Antarctic waste reality: a Chinese refuse dump on Fildes Penninsula/King George Island in the 2008/09 season. Photo: Anja Nordt/FSU
Not quite so old but equally ‘immortal’ are many traces that have been left behind by humans at the South Pole of the Earth. This is the result of a report on the ‘Current Ecological Situation of the Fildes Peninsula Region and Management Suggestions‘: The report, written and published by scientists of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany), has been commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt).
According to their findings, the environment of the Antarctic is by far less intact than many people might think: Tracks of car tires and tire chains have ploughed the sparse vegetation for kilometer after kilometer. Leftovers from derelict experimental set-ups and field huts are slowly decomposing. Rubbish – some of it containing dangerous chemicals, discarded oil cans and car batteries – is lying in the open. On top of this there are coastal waters and beaches suffering oil-pollution as a result of poor handling of fuel at the stations.
”We have a genuine waste problem in the Antarctic,” says Dr. Hans-Ulrich Peter of the University Jena who was in charge writing the report. Most of all this concerns King George Island, about 120 kilometers off the Antarctic Continent. It is there, more precisely on the Fildes Peninsula, where the ecologist has been doing research on a regular basis since 1983 and meticulously documented the changes in the environment.
“The Fildes Peninsula is one of the largest ice-free areas of the Antarctic with a relatively high degree of biodiversity,” Dr. Peter says. As a result the region has attracted a lot of scientific interest, along with the building of six permanently occupied stations including an aircraft runway concentrated in a relatively small area, which turned it into the logistic hub of the international Antarctic research – with all consequences of permanent human settlement. In this context ecologists of the University Jena noticed that during the last thirty years not only the global climate change can be gravely felt in the Antarctic, natural life is equally threatened by the influence of human beings on the local environment of the south polar region.
“Due to the extreme climatic conditions the sensitive vegetation only recovers very slowly,“ Christina Braun, a member of Dr. Peter’s team, says. She has visited King George Island seven times already for research purposes. “Vehicle tracks sometimes remain there for decades.“ But the vegetation is not only damaged by vehicles and building work. According to Christina Braun the unique flora of the Antarctic is equally threatened by ‘imported‘ plants. “Some years ago we found some non-native plants nearby the Russian research station Bellingshausen.“ Insects and other animal and plant species inadvertently imported by participants of expedition present dangers for the ecosystem.
“If there isn’t a profound change of direction, these negative environmental influences will be amplified in the next few years,“ Hans-Ulrich Peter says. Therefore in approximately 130 pages of their report the German ecologists make specific suggestions for the management of this sensitive region: The crucial point is the designation of the Fildes Peninsula as an ‘Antarctic Specially Managed Area’ (ASMA). With this specific administrative instrument legally binding standards concerning the use of the region would be determined. The proposed measure could reduce the conflicting interests between science, tourism and the protection of geological and historical sites as well as keeping its environment intact. However, Dr. Peter regrets that the lack of consensus among the Antarctic Treaty states is blocking the realization of the proposal so far.The complete report in English can be downloaded here: http://www.umweltdaten.de/publikationen/fpdf-l/4424.pdf.
Ute Schönfelder | idw
New approach for environmental test on livestock drugs
27.07.2016 | Universität Zürich
Managing an endangered river across the US-Mexico border
18.07.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Transparent electronics devices are present in today’s thin film displays, solar cells, and touchscreens. The future will bring flexible versions of such devices. Their production requires printable materials that are transparent and remain highly conductive even when deformed. Researchers at INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials have combined a new self-assembling nano ink with an imprint process to create flexible conductive grids with a resolution below one micrometer.
To print the grids, an ink of gold nanowires is applied to a substrate. A structured stamp is pressed on the substrate and forces the ink into a pattern. “The...
A new Fraunhofer MEVIS method conveys medical interrelationships quickly and intuitively with innovative visualization technology
On the monitor, a brain spins slowly and can be examined from every angle. Suddenly, some sections start glowing, first on the side and then the entire back of...
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.
While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.
Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.
Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...
Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases
Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...
15.07.2016 | Event News
15.07.2016 | Event News
11.07.2016 | Event News
28.07.2016 | Information Technology
28.07.2016 | Materials Sciences
28.07.2016 | Earth Sciences