Long-Term Monitoring of Human Impacts to the Terrestrial Environment at McMurdo Station
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Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014. The largest of the three scientific bases operated by the United States Antarctic Program (USAP), McMurdo Station has experienced numerous localised environmental impacts over its fifty-plus years of occupation. Since 1999 a long-term environmental monitoring programme has examined human impacts in the terrestrial and marine environments in proximity to the station. The programme was developed from an assessment of system attributes amenable to monitoring, an understanding of the nature of historical and ongoing environmental impacts and a consideration of the spatial scales over which impacts would be expected. While station operations continue to impact the local environment, the 'footprint' of human disturbance observed at McMurdo Station today primarily represents vestiges of historical practices. In the terrestrial environment, the impact of human activities is typically confined to within a few hundred meters of the station and contamination by petroleum hydrocarbons and metals are found where expected. This ongoing monitoring programme represents an important step in understanding how a legacy of human activities can affect the local environment surrounding an Antarctic scientific base. The developed framework is suitable for adaptation to other Antarctic research stations with similar physical settings and mix of human activities. The programme has provided, and will continue to provide, crucial baseline environmental information which can serve as the scientific basis for future assessments of the impact of human activities at McMurdo Station over the next 50 years.