What is really the size of the human footprint in Antarctica?

Over the last decades, humanity is trying to explore Antarctica. After the adoption of the Antarctic Treaty 1961 human activity on this continent began to be governed by the law, since scientists began to worry that the presence of people can affect the environment of Antarctica. But what is really a visual trace of a man on the southern continent?

To find out, Sean Brooks from the University of Tasmania with a group of researchers studied satellite observations over the 2005-2016 years. The result was that buildings and structures built by man, is about 39 hectares of the continent is only one-fifth of one of the smallest countries Monaco. Buildings occupy less than half a percent of the entire continent, with half of them takes into account coastal waters.

For every person who works at the Antarctic stations, comes about 1 000 square meters of developed area, reported in the study. Scientists have discovered human footprints for more than half of the major coastal areas of Antarctica without ice. This caused some concern, since there are rare species of animals that are seen exclusively on the southern continent.

We contacted one of the authors of the study — Sean Brooks, who said that even in the context of this study it is impossible to say exactly what area of Antarctica is mastered.

Many traces of human activity are not visible on satellite images. Therefore, to assess the true extent is difficult, and compliance with the Antarctic Treaty. Were not taken into account data from 2016 to 2018, which could greatly change the picture in connection with the reduction in Antarctic sea ice over the years.

Recall that the area of Antarctic sea ice at the beginning of this year fell to 5.5 million square kilometers and is at least almost 40 years of observations. According to the results published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Antarctic ice sheet alone in 2017 has lost more than 250 billion tons of ice