The Subantarctic island of South Georgia had been troubled by rodents for centuries. Brought in by whalers and sealers, rats and mice devastated the bird colonies and the vegetation. Over the last 10 years, however, things have changed for the better. In the world’s largest eradication program, more than 1’000 km2 of the island were cleared of any rodents. Now, the South Georgia Heritage Trust has declared the campaign a huge success.
The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) reported its visitor numbers for the 2017-2018 Antarctic season at the start of its annual meeting in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. IAATO has been monitoring, analyzing and reporting trends since 1991 as part of its commitment to ‘leave only footprints’ through the effective self-management of its activities.
A new study has revealed a previously undocumented process where melting glacial ice sheets change the ocean in a way that further accelerates the rate of ice melt and sea level rise. The research found that glacial meltwater makes the ocean's surface layer less salty and more buoyant, preventing deep mixing in winter and allowing warm water at depth to retain its heat and further melt glaciers from below.
The waters around Antarctica, usually combined as the Southern Ocean, have made many headlines lately. Pollution, fisheries, climate change are a few of the pressures that this vast water body is facing. Mid-April, international scientists had gathered in Hobart, Tasmania, to discuss the challenges and possible solutions in a first attempt to combine their knowledge.
During Scott’s famous Discovery Expedition 1901 – 1904, the team collected numerous samples to enhance the scientific knowledge on Antarctica. More than 100 years later, scientists from the UK and the USA have now analyzed some these valuable samples. Their findings give a sneak peek into Antarctic ecology prior to the extensive human activity there and the rest of the world.
Adélie penguins are the southernmost breeding penguin species and iconic to Antarctica. Numerous colonies are found along the Antarctic coast and on nearby islands. Until now, they were thought to come to their breeding places only in summer. Now, remote sensing cameras set up at various colonies have captured Adélies returning to their breeding sites during winter time. A comparison between colonies in West and East Antarctica, however, clearly showed that Western Adélies are the ones returning in winter while Eastern Adélies stay away until spring time.
Totten Glacier is one of the largest and fastest flowing glaciers in Antarctica. It is assumed to be one of the main ice drainage systems in the east of the Antarctic continent, flowing out over the Totten Glacier tongue. However, little is known about the tongue and its size. An international research team has now seismologically surveyed the tongue and found that it is even longer than assumed. This could make it more vulnerable to melting.
Antarctic sea ice has shrunk to its second lowest extent on record, with the latest satellite data showing a total 2.15 million km2 surrounding the icy continent. This year's summer low sea ice extent almost broke the existing minimum record of 2.07 million km², set in March last year when the extent was approximately 27% below the average annual minimum since 1979.
Heavy sea ice conditions have thwarted a science mission from reaching the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica from which a large iceberg broke off in July 2017. A team of scientists, led by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), are on board the RRS James Clark Ross. Sea ice, up to 4-5 metres thick, made progress for the ship very slow and the ship’s captain made the difficult decision not to continue.
Penguins preserve records of Antarctic environmental change. The birds’ feathers and eggshells contain the chemical fingerprints of variations in diet, food web structure and even climate, researchers reported recently at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting.