Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ecological problems in Antarctica

Climate change is already having a major impact on Antarctica. Many of Antarctica’s largest glaciers such as Pine Island Glacier, Thwaites glacier and Getz Ice Shelf are retreating rapidly which will in years to come lead to a significant global sea level rise. Ninety-eight percent of Antarctica is covered in ice but West Antarctica is rapidly losing its ice cover.

Climate change is also opening the door for many new invasive species such as king crabs. Hundreds of thousands of king crabs are entering Antarctica because of warmer sea temperatures. Many environmentalists are worried that with so many king crabs in Antarctica the vulnerable ecosystem of Earth's southernmost continent could be wiped out in very short time.

The rising sea temperatures are also becoming big issue by having negative impact on marine creatures adapted to living within a particular temperature range.

Ocean acidification is also growing. The Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica is particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification because of a combination that includes ocean mixing patterns and low temperature which enhances the solubility of carbon dioxide in the water.

The pollution issue is also growing in Antarctica region. The major sources of air and water pollution in this area are shipping traffic, wrecks and the transport of invasive alien species on hulls and in ballast tanks. There is also chemical and sewage pollution from research stations and ships, not to mention frequent waste dumping.

Overfishing is another issue that threatens ecosystems in Antarctica. For instance the overfishing of krill, which plays a large role in the Antarctic's marine food chain, has led officials to enact regulations on fishing. Marine food chain is also in danger because of the hunting of top predators such as whales and seals.

Increased tourism in this area has also become a big burden to Antarctica's ecology. More tourists does not only mean more trash and more invasive species but also disturbs breeding bird and seal colonies.

There is also a fear that in years to come Antarctica will become a top area to extract oil once world starts to run out of oil. Antarctic Treaty currently prohibits the extraction of oil but in years to come oil-hungry world may decide to sacrifice environment in order to get more oil.

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