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Human impact in Antarctica greater than previously thought: Australian study

(Xinhua)    14:46, July 16, 2020

Antarctica is considered to be one of the last remaining untouched wildernesses in the world despite roughly two centuries of human activity since the continent was officially discovered in 1820.

A study released on Thursday by Australian researchers has shown that despite having no cities, agriculture or industry, the human influence in Antarctica may be having more of an impact than was previously thought.

The team of researchers led by Monash University analysed a data set of 2.7 million human activity records, including historical sources, scientific records and tourism industry data to determine the extent of human activity and potential impact in Antarctica.

They found that with the exception of some large areas mostly in the centre of the land mass, human exploration has spread to nearly every corner of the icy continent.

Co-author, Steven Chown from Monash University, told Xinhua that according to their data, just 32 percent of the continent's surface remained untouched by humans.

"Antarctica as a whole is about twice the size of the Australian continent," Chown said.

"And if you think of all of that ice covered area, to imagine that people have wondered largely all over it is quite surprising."

While human activity in Antarctica such as scientific endeavors and tourism may seem negligible, the team from Monash say that biodiversity is at risk and that the roughly 30 countries with scientific operations there should take that into account.

"Biodiversity generally is defined as the variety in life from different species to different ecosystems, and how they function," Chown said.

"Globally biodiversity is important because it's what makes life possible. It's the whole functioning of life on the planet."

The authors hope their work can act as a guide for nations undertaking scientific studies and other endeavours in Antarctica to protect vulnerable areas.

"We've given evidence now to show where wilderness and really pristine areas are, and we're recommending that policymakers, those Antarctic Treaty Consultative parties, actually now make some decisions to protect these areas into the future," Chown said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: He Zhuoyan, Bianji)

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