Trampling on maritime Antarctica: can soil ecosystems be effectively protected through existing codes of conduct?
Soil trampling is one of the most obvious direct negative human impacts in Antarctica. Through a range of experiments and field studies based on quantitative physical (soil penetration resistance) and biological (collembolan abundance) indicators, we evaluate the current codes of conduct relating to the protection of Antarctic soils from the consequences of pedestrian impacts. These guidelines include using, where available, established paths that cross vegetation-free soils. However, the effectiveness of this strategy is highly dependent on context. Limited intensity use - below 100 foot passes per year - produces small changes at the soil surface that can recover relatively rapidly, suggesting that the dispersal of activity across wider corridors may be the most appropriate option. However, for paths with a higher use level and those located in steep-sloped sites, it is desirable to define a single track, following stony or bouldery surfaces wherever possible, to keep the disturbed area to a minimum. It is clear that both environmental conditions and expected use levels must be taken into account in determining when and where it is more appropriate to concentrate or disperse human activities. Even though they may have performed satisfactorily to date, the increasing pressure in terms of numbers of visits for certain sites may make it necessary to revise existing codes of conduct.
Keywords: Trampling impacts; environmental monitoring; low impact practices; soil resilience; soil penetration resistance; collembolan abundance
(Published: 28 December 2012)
Citation: Polar Research 2012, 31, 10888, http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/polar.v31i0.10888
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