Article 3 Environmental Principles

1. The protection of the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems and the intrinsic value of Antarctica, including its wilderness and aesthetic values and its value as an area for the conduct of scientific research, in particular research essential to understanding the global environment, shall be fundamental considerations in the planning and conduct of all activities in the Antarctic Treaty area.

a. activities in the Antarctic Treaty area shall be planned and conducted so as to limit adverse impacts on the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems;

b. activities in the Antarctic Treaty area shall be planned and conducted so as to avoid:

i. adverse effects on climate or weather patterns;

ii. significant adverse effects on air or water quality;

iii. significant changes in the atmospheric, terrestrial (including aquatic), glacial or marine environments;

iv. detrimental changes in the distribution, abundance or productivity of species or populations of species of fauna and flora;

v. further jeopardy to endangered or threatened species or populations of such species; or vi. degradation of, or substantial risk to, areas of biological, scientific, historic, aesthetic or wilderness significance;

aFrom the Antarctic Treaty Searchable Database: 1959-1999 CD-ROM.

catch-up, such baselines can be generated from the growth structures of organisms (such as teeth or shell growth bands) that continuously record ambient environmental variations during their lifetimes (e.g., Fig. 9.9). Baselines also can be generated from geological, chemical and fossil archives that reflect the natural dynamics of the Earth system unambiguously from periods before any human impacts (Figs. 6.5,7.4,8.10, and 9.3).

In addition to assessments, the Protocol created guidelines that are both objective and subjective for making ''informed judgements'' about whether human activities should proceed (Box 11.5). Whereas ''minor'' is a subjective term, ''transitory'' can be objectively related to the recovery capacity of species and ecosystems. In one sense, the time frame of a ''transitory'' human impact already is defined in Article II of the 1980 Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic box 11.4 criteria of key indicator species a

(a) Basic biology is known

(b) Reflects environmental variability

(c) Broadly common in habitats

(d) Large, abundant, and easy to collect

(e) Comparable baselines from different times and locations

(f) Easy to manipulate in field and laboratory experiments

(g) Sensitive to human impacts a Modified from Berkman (1998).

Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which discusses the prevention of ecosystem changes that are not ''potentially reversible over two or three decades.'' This CCAMLR time frame was based on the general lifespan of Antarctic seals, which further suggests applications of key indicator organisms (Box 11.4) for assessing ''transitory'' impacts in ecosystems.

box 11.5 199 1 protocol on environmental protection to the antarctic treaty (protocol)a


1. Proposed activities referred to in paragraph 2 below shall be subject to the procedures set out in Annex I for prior assessment of the impacts of those activities on the Antarctic environment or on dependent or associated ecosystems according to whether those activities are identified as having:

a. less than a minor or transitory impact;

b. a minor or transitory impact; or c. more than a minor or transitory impact.

2. Each party shall ensure that the assessment procedures set out in Annex I are applied in the planning processes leading to decisions about any activities undertaken in the Antarctic Treaty area pursuant to scientific research programmes, tourism and all other governmental and nongovernmental activities in the Antarctic Treaty area for which advance notice is required under Article VII (5) of the Antarctic Treaty, including associated logistic support activities.

Beyond merely monitoring changes, quantitative approaches for assessing "minor or transitory impacts'' in ecosystems involve experiments for interpreting impact durations and magnitudes as well as biological responses (Fig. 11.9). Assessed across gradients (Chapter 2: Conceptual Integration), with the appropriate controls or baselines, experiments provide frameworks for relating pollutants or other habitat perturbations from being small and confined to large and dispersed. Similarly, impacts could be related from acute and short-term to chronic and long-term. Ultimately, however, environmental or ecosystem impacts are reflected by changes in biological production (Chapter 9: Living Planet) across gradients from sublethal to lethal. Together, such impact gradients illustrate the matrix of information that could be generated for measuring, interpreting, and judging whether human activities have ''minor or transitory impacts'' in ''dependent and associatedecosystems.'' For example, the total magnitude of impacts from research stations across the 14 million square-kilometer area of the Antarctic continent (Figs. 11.1 and 11.4) can be considered in relation to human populations on any other continent. If this sparce distribution of stations was superimposed on North America, there might be a station in Los Angeles with a few others dotted northward along the West Coast, a few scattered across Canada, perhaps a concentration of sites in New England, and a handful in interior localities such as Philadelphia or Washington, D.C. In addition to being widely separated, the maximum size of Antarctic research stations is comparable to a tiny town, as represented by McMurdo with

FIGURE 11.9 Impact gradient matrix for quantifying impact durations and magnitudes as well as biological responses to assess ''minor or transitory impacts'' as prescribed by the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Box 11.5).

Impact Duration

FIGURE 11.9 Impact gradient matrix for quantifying impact durations and magnitudes as well as biological responses to assess ''minor or transitory impacts'' as prescribed by the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Box 11.5).

1500 persons during the austral summer (Fig. 5.2a). Moreover, the majority of Antarctic research stations involve fewer than 100 persons—indicating that Antarctic station impacts are ''minor'' by any measure on a continental scale (e.g. Figs. 5.2b and 5.2c).

Since the heroic age (Chapter 3: Terra Australis Incognita), however, most Antarctic stations have been located in coastal areas that are ice-free and accessible compared to the 98% of Antarctica that is ice-covered (Figs. 11.1 and 11.4). Moreover, since the IGY, the highest concentration of coastal stations has been in the Antarctic Peninsula region, with nine stations on the 1450-square-kilometer area of King George Island alone (Fig. 11.4). Importantly, exposed coastal areas are where most of the terrestrial life on the continent ekes out its existence (Fig. 9.4, Table 9.3).

Localized impacts at coastal stations range from discarded materials (such as buildings and drums at abandoned stations) to displacement of natural assemblages (such as the Adelie penguin rookery near the French station at Dumont D'Urville, which was replaced by an aircraft runway in the 1980s). There also are research stations that have been operating continuously since the IGY that have become point sources of chronic pollution impacts, such as the United States' research facility at McMurdo Station (Fig. 5.2a and 11.1).

Adjacent to the McMurdo Station in Winter Quarters Bay, with its ice wharf for docking vessels near a former dump site, there is intense and localized pollution within a 0.1-square-kilometer area (Fig. 5.2a). Hydrocarbon concentrations in the sediments range to 4500 parts per million in the back part of Winter Quarters Bay and decrease several orders of magnitude within a couple of hundred meters toward McMurdo Sound (Fig. 3.1b). Similarly, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other synthetic organic compounds, including dichlorodiphenyltri-chloroethane (DDT), show significantly higher concentrations in Winter Quarters Bay than background concentrations in McMurdo Sound. Across this pollution gradient, infaunal species (polychaete worms and bivalve molluscs) as well as epifaunal species (starfish, sea urchins, and nemertean worms) increase in abundance as concentrations of hydrocarbons and chlorinated compounds decrease from the station point source.

The Bahia Paraiso oil spill near Palmer Station (Fig. 11.4) in 1989 is a poignant example of a localized acute ecosystem perturbation. The spill was confined by small islands within a 100-square-kilometer area with limited wind-and-wave dispersal across the sea ice and open water. The type of oil spilled was diesel fuel antarctic (DFA), which is semi-volatile with low concentrations of toxic aromatic hydrocarbons that weather quickly compared to unrefined crude oil. Nonetheless, the oil was spilled in a polar environment where cold temperatures slow the bacterial decay of all organic matter, as demonstrated by the persistence of fuel oil residues in marine sediments dating back to the beginning of the 20th century near the Stromness whaling station on South Georgia.

Most of the 600,000 liters of DFA from the Bahia Paraiso oil spill washed into the intertidal zone where limpets (Nacella concinna) grow on the rocks as food for the kelp gull (Larus dominicanus). Within weeks, there was greater than 50%

mortality among the nearby limpet populations, with hydrocarbon concentrations in their tissues exceeding 125,000 parts per billion. High concentrations of hydrocarbons (greater than 17,000 parts per billion) also were observed in clams near the spill and at lower levels (less than 1300 parts per billion) a couple of kilometers away. Following the oil spill there was high reproductive failure among the south polar skua (Catharacta maccormicki), Adelie penguin, and cormorant (Phalacro-corax atriceps) populations in the vicinity. Fatalities among cormorant adults also opened up space in rookeries, which exposed surviving chicks to increased predation from skuas, eventually causing the number of nests on Cormorant Island to decline from nearly 400 to zero.

In addition to chemical or physical impacts, Antarctic ecosystems also are being disturbed by nonindigenous species transported by humans. The alarming concern and reality about invading species is that they cause structural and functional changes in native biotic assemblages. Because of the huge magnitude of invasive species being introduced by humans around the world (the Office of Technology Assessment estimates nearly 6300 alien species in the United States alone), measures to mitigate their impact have been adopted repeatedly since the first Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (Recommendation I-VIII) in 1961.

Most of the alien species in the Antarctic region have been introduced on islands in ''associated ecosystems'' that are north of the 60° south latitude jurisdiction of the Antarctic Treaty System. Among the 42 vascular plants on Marion Island, for example, 18 are a result of human introduction (Table 11.4). In addition, many of the exotic biota, such as the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), came

TABLE 11.4 Alien Vascular Plants on Marion Island (47°52' S, 37°51' E)

Species name

Year of introduction

Agrostis castellana Agrostis gigantea Agrostis stolonifera Agropyron repens Alopecurus australis Avena sativa Cerastiumfontanum Festuca rubra Holcus lanatus Hypochoeris radicata Plantago lanceolata Poa annua Poa pratensis Rumex acetosella Sagina procumbens Stellaria media

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