Environmental Considerations

For the Southern Ocean, the main environmental hazards are likely to arise from the exploitation of marine living and mineral resources and from climatic changes due to man's activities. These aspects have been discussed in considerable detail (e.g., Holdgate and Tinker, 1979; Brewster, 1982; Zumberge, 1982; Holdgate, 1983, 1987; Bonner, 1984; Keys, 1984; Anonymous, 1985a; Benninghoff and Bonner, 1985; Bolinetal., 1986; Angel, 1987; Bonner and Angel, 1987; May, 1988; Gregory, this volume) and it is not the intention to repeat these arguments here.

Nonetheless, it is worth quoting Zumberge (1982) that knowledge of the Antarctic continent and Southern Ocean remains incomplete. Hundreds of man-years of scientific studies are required before the components of the Antarctic environment and their interdependent relationships are sufficiently understood to permit a reasonably confident assessment of the impact of man's activities on the marine and terrestrial environments in Antarctica. The paucity of basic information in particular, and the lack of knowledge of environmental dynamics in general, makes any attempt to predict the consequences of man's activities on the environment a very tenuous activity. Similarly, Holdgate (1983) has argued that understanding the dynamic and interacting nature of polar environmental conditions is essential if development projects are to be soundly designed. Among the key interactions in the Antarctic about which information is inadequate are those between sea ice and the marine ecosystem, those between marine ecosystems and terrestrial ecology and the extent to which components of the marine system may be vulnerable to pollution. Holdgate also noted that the Antarctic must not be regarded as a pristine environment unmodified by man. Rather, its ecosystems have been widely influenced by past human impacts. Angel (1987) considered three of the main Antarctic habits (terrestrial, inland waters and islands) likely to be fragile whereas the oceanic ecosystem contains few fragile elements. However, the highly dynamic nature of the oceanic environment requires that the whole Antarctic marine environment be thought of as a simple entity and managed as such.

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