Antarctica: Environment

Environmental issues and good behavior in Antarctica

Outstanding natural landscapes, physical purity and serenity are among the many unique attributes of the Antarctic continent. Today, tourism and science are the main activities in Antarctica, with the consequences that this implies for the environment. The continent is also valuable test for many global issues such as global warming.


Some 200 million years ago, Antarctica formed the super-continent of Gondwana with Australia, Africa, South America, India and New Zealand. About 20 million years later, Gondwana began its extremely slow division into several pieces and the continents, subcontinents and islands began to take their current place. Forests, mammals and dinosaurs characterized Antarctica when it reached the South Pole nearly 100 million years ago. Fossils of conifers, ferns and reptiles have also been found in India, South America, Australia and Africa.
The formation of the current Drake Strait 34 to 24 million years ago resulted in the isolation of the Antarctic continent. The drop in CO 2 levels led to a dramatic drop in temperatures in Antarctica.
Today, Antarctica forms a disk of about 4,500 km in diameter covering an area of ​​some 14.2 million km² (1.4 times the size of the United States). The most isolated, arid and highest “Continent” with an average altitude of 2,250 m, it is classified in the deserts category.
The 2,900-kilometer Antarctic Mountains divide the continent into East Antarctica (sometimes called the “Great Antarctic”) and West Antarctic (or “Little Antarctic”) from longitude 0 °. Mount Vinson (4,900,
The rocks of East Antarctica, at least 3 billion years old, are among the oldest rocks on earth. Some of the oldest terrestrial rocks (estimated at about 3.84 billion years) have been discovered on Enderby Land. Dating back only 700 million years, western Antarctica is relatively new.
The Antarctic Peninsula separates the two main bays of the continent, occupied by the Weddell Sea and the Ross Sea whose currents go clockwise. Each also has its own ice platform (respectively the Ronne platform and the Ross platform), an extension of the Great Antarctic Ice Sheet.
In September, at the end of the winter in Antarctica, the size of the continent doubled under the effect of freezing sea ice that can extend more than 1,000 km from the coast. The Antarctic coast is still far from being perfectly mapped.

Environmental issues

The isolation of Antarctica does not prevent it from being more and more confronted with the same threats and challenges as the rest of the planet. The main effects on the Antarctic environment are caused by people who have never set foot! Global warming, the hole in the ozone layer, waste and fishing affect Antarctica, as does the human presence

Impact of tourism on the environment

The number of tourists in Antarctica far exceeds that of scientists and technical staff. Many regulations have been put in place to limit the impact of tourism on the environment.
The typical example of human impact is the footprint in the foam still visible 10 years later, not to mention the less visible “invisible” consequences, such as on algae living in the hollow of the rocks or the flora under the snow.
Animals can be affected even if they do not show it openly in their behavior. Thus, German researchers have shown that the heart rate of Adélie penguins in the incubation period accelerates very clearly at the approach of a human being 30 meters without they do not react a visible response.

Protected areas

Inquire about sites with special protection and comply with restrictions on access or activities on site and nearby.
Do not move, take away or damage objects or historical sites.
Clear boots and clothing of snow and impurities before accessing sites.


Do not abandon waste on land or at sea. Outdoor fires are prohibited.
Do not stir or pollute lakes or streams.
Do not pick up souvenirs, biological or geological specimens (including stones, bones, eggs, fossils) or remove elements or contents from buildings.


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