Antarctic Science

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Antarctic Science (2009), 21:229-236 Cambridge University Press
Copyright © Antarctic Science Ltd 2009

Biological Sciences

Soil trampling in an Antarctic Specially Protected Area: tools to assess levels of human impact

P. Tejedoa1, A. Justela2, J. Benayasa3 c1, E. Ricoa3, P. Conveya4 and A. Quesadaa5

a1 School of Biology, IE University, Segovia, 40003, Spain
a2 Departamento de Matemáticas, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, 28049, Spain
a3 Departamento de Ecología, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, 28049, Spain
a4 British Antarctic Survey, NERC, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
a5 Departamento de Biología, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, 28049, Spain
Article author query
tejedo p [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
justel a [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
benayas j [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
rico e [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
convey p [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
quesada a [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]


Research in extremely delicate environments must be sensitive to the need to minimize impacts caused simply through the presence of research personnel. This study investigates the effectiveness of current advice relating to travel on foot over Antarctic vegetation-free soils. These are based on the concentration of impacts through the creation of properly signed and identified paths. In order to address these impacts, we quantified three factors - resistance to compression, bulk density and free-living terrestrial arthropod abundance - in areas of human activity over five summer field seasons at the Byers Peninsula (Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands). Studies included instances of both experimentally controlled use and natural non-controlled situations. The data demonstrate that a minimum human presence is sufficient to alter both physical and biological characteristics of Byers Peninsula soils, although at the lowest levels of human activity this difference was not significant in comparison with adjacent undisturbed control areas. On the other hand, a limited resilience of physical properties was observed in Antarctic soils, thus it is crucial not to exceed the soil's natural recovery capability.

(Received August 07 2008)

(Accepted November 11 2008)

Key wordsAntarctica; ASPA; environmental monitoring; recovery capacity; soil degradation; trampling impact


c1 Corresponding author: