What Pressures Exist in Antarctica?

Antarctica is the last great wilderness on Earth. An entire continent covered in ice and snow. The only human presence there is scientists researching global climate change and the ecosystems present in Antarctica, and the occasional tourist party during the summer months. Antarctica is a harsh environment; the coldest, windiest, wettest and driest place on the planet. It may sound strange describing a continent covered in snow as dry, but there are some locations in Antarctica which have not seen rain for two million years. Such an environment needs protecting, but there are many pressures that exist on this fragile wilderness region. The most obvious pressure on and threat to Antarctica is of course climate change. Increased sea temperatures are causing the coastal ice shelves of Antarctica to melt. Larsen B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula is one such example of this. Although melting sea ice will not cause sea levels to rise, the land based ice which then collapses into the sea due to lack of support from the sea ice will, resulting in loss of land in low lying areas and potentially causing much larger repercussions by affecting the oceanic conveyer. TNCs concerned with mining, drilling for oil and mineral extraction, wish to exploit Antarctica’s natural resources. Antarctica has the same geological makeup as South America and Africa and so is rich in gold and other minerals. Extraction of minerals is currently prohibited by the Antarctic treaty, although exploration and survey of mineral veins is allowed. Some environmentalists worry that even this on its own could potentially be damaging to Antarctica. Thankfully, for now, the Antarctic treaty does not have an expiration date and so Antarctica should be preserved for some time yet.

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