Pressures affecting the Antarctic terrestrial environment

Component
Summary
Grade
Very high impact High impact Low impact Very low impact
Confidence
In Grade In Trend
Comparability
To previous years

Populations of some native plants are expanding rapidly on subantarctic islands where ice-free areas are increasing. Composition of plant assemblages may change as non-native species become established

Year(s): 
2016
2
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Comparable

At the Antarctic Peninsula, populations of two native flowering plants are expanding rapidly; similar observations have been made on subantarctic islands where ice-free areas are increasing; composition of plant assemblages may change

Year(s): 
2011
2
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

In some areas of East Antarctica, there is evidence of long-term drying, and moss beds appear to have contracted to areas with reliable water supply

Year(s): 
2016
2
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Comparable

In East Antarctica, mosses are drying out rapidly due to ice melt and channel run-off away from existing moss beds

Year(s): 
2011
2
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

In East Antarctica, moss growth is retarded because of changes in wind patterns related to ozone depletion

Year(s): 
2016
2
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Comparable

Introduction of non-native species and pathogens

This assessment summary component has changed from 2011.

The term 'alien species' has been replaced with 'non-native species'.

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Invasive species can have a devastating effect on endemic species and communities. Poa annua, a small grass, is spreading and outcompetes native plant species. The eradication program of cats, rabbits, rats and mice at Macquarie Island has been completed successfully and has had a positive effect on plant communities (see State and trends of the Antarctic environment)

Further warming of the atmosphere may help pathogens and non-native species to become established

Year(s): 
2016
2
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Comparable

Invasive species can have a devastating effect on endemic species and communities. The eradication program currently under way at Macquarie Island will have a positive effect on seabird populations Further warming of the atmosphere may help pathogens to become established

Year(s): 
2011
2
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not comparable

More ice-free areas are likely to suffer from erosion, especially on subantarctic islands

Year(s): 
2016
2
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Comparable

More ice-free areas are likely to suffer from erosion, especially on subantarctic islands

Year(s): 
2011
2
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Deposition of solid and liquid wastes can affect both terrestrial and marine communities

Impacts tend to be localised, but pollutants also come from nonlocal sources and are likely to contaminate much larger regions

Year(s): 
2016
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Comparable

Deposition of solid and liquid wastes can impact both terrestrial and marine communities. Impacts tend to be localised, but pollutants are also received from non-local sources and are likely to contaminate much larger regions

Year(s): 
2011
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Deposition of marine debris, particularly plastics, can lead to ingestion by, and entanglement of, seabirds and seals. Negative impacts on chicks are also possible, because ingested debris may leach harmful chemicals

Year(s): 
2016
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Increased visitation puts pressure on wildlife populations. With increasing demands to see wildlife, more areas may be visited more often and by more people. More research activities may also increase wildlife disturbance. New technology such as drones may disturb wildlife

Year(s): 
2016
3
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Comparable

Increased visitation puts pressure on wildlife populations; with increasing demands to see wildlife, more areas may be visited more frequently and in greater numbers

Year(s): 
2011
3
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Many human activities significantly alter the natural environment. Visitation can negatively affect habitat—for example, through trampling

Year(s): 
2016
3
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Comparable

Many human activities significantly alter the natural environment (e.g. stations); visitation can negatively affect habitat through trampling

Year(s): 
2011
3
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed
Klekociuk A, Wienecke B (2016). Antarctic environment: Pressures affecting the Antarctic terrestrial environment. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/assessment-summary-712-pressures-affecting-antarctic-terrestrial-environment, DOI 10.4226/94/58b65b2b307c0