Science

The Antarctic Site Inventory

 

The Antarctic Site Inventory commenced work in November 1994 with start-up funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation Office Of Polar Programs.

The project is primarily sustained by public support and private foundation grants, and frequently has been augmented by support from Antarctic Treaty governments and agencies — including the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Her Majesty's Royal Navy, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Marine Mammal Commission, and the German Federal Environment Agency (Unweltbundesamt).

The Inventory's now-tested hypothesis is whether opportunistic visits — from tour ships, government vessels, yachts, and other platforms — can be used: to effectively and economically detect possible visitor-caused changes in the physical features, flora, and fauna of sites in the Antarctic Peninsula being visited repeatedly; to collect baseline information necessary to detect possible changes in the physical and biological variables being monitored; and to determine how best to minimize or avoid possible environmental impacts of tourism and non-governmental activities in the Antarctic Peninsula area. In these regards, the Inventory has proved enormously successful.

The environmental concern is identifying changes to the baseline reference state and, if possible, determining whether any detected changes are naturally occurring or are anthropogenic, perhaps caused by human activities. Potential impacts may be short-term or long-term, immediate or cumulative.

In 17 seasons through February 2011, the Inventory has made 1,156 site visits and collected census and descriptive data at 142 Antarctic Peninsula locations, including repetitive visits to all of the most heavily visited sites in the Antarctic Peninsula.

Data collected by the Inventory are intended to assist the implementation of the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, which, among other things, requires a priori environmental impact assessments for all human activities, and for monitoring to be done, as and when necessary, to assess and verify predicted environmental impacts.

Three categories of data and information are collected:

Basic Site Information, which includes descriptions of key physical and topographical characteristics; latitude and longitude; distribution of flora, seal haul-out and wallow locations, and discrete groups of breeding penguins and flying birds;

Variable Site Information and Data, which includes weather and other environmental conditions (sea ice extent, cloud cover, snow cover, temperature, wind direction and speed), biological variables (number of occupied nests, number of chicks per occupied nest, ages of chicks), and the nature and extent of any observed visitor impacts (footprints or paths, cigarette butts, film canisters, and litter); and

Maps and Photodocumentation, which portray the major features of each site, particularly the locations of colonies and assemblages of resident fauna and flora.

Oceanites collaborates with the Conservation Biology Lab of Dr. William Fagan at the University of Maryland and The Lynch Lab of Dr. Heather Lynch at the State University of New York at Stony Brook to analyze the Inventory database in concert with other long-term, biological and physical data sets from Antarctica. Utilizing hierarchical Bayesian modeling and other innovative statistical and global information system (GIS) techniques, these comprehensive spatial and temporal analyses will enable a more precise understanding of how Antarctic biological and physical processes may connect. The goal is to identify environmental changes that are occurring, precisely where they are occurring, and, hopefully, why they are occurring.

Discerning how Antarctic species are changing in abundance and relative abundance, and more importantly, identifying the factors driving these long-term changes, are key steps toward an improved understanding of the Antarctic ecosystem and are essential for effective stewardship of Antarctica.

Biological data and site descriptions collected by the Antarctic Site Inventory are published regularly and routinely made available in peer-reviewed papers, government reports, and popular publications:

ASI PUBLICATIONS TO DATE

Naveen, R. 1996. Human Activity and Disturbance: Building An Antarctic Site Inventory, In R. Ross, E. Hofman, and L. Quetin (eds.) Foundations for Ecosystem Research in the Western Antarctic Peninsula Region. American Geophysical Union. Washington. pp. 389-400.

Naveen, R., S.C. Forrest, R.G. Dagit, L.K. Blight, W.Z. Trivelpiece, and S.G. Trivelpiece. 2000. Censuses of penguin, blue-eyed shag, and southern giant petrel populations in the Antarctic Peninsula region, 1994-2000, Polar Record 36 (199): 323-334.

Naveen, R., S.C. Forrest, R.G. Dagit, L.K. Blight, W.Z. Trivelpiece, and S.G. Trivelpiece. 2001. Zodiac landings by tourist ships in the Antarctic Peninsula region, 1989-99, Polar Record 37 (201): 121-132.

Forrest, S. and Naveen, R. 2000. Prevalence of Leucism in Pygoscelid Penguins of the Antarctic Peninsula. Waterbirds 23 (2): 283-285.

Lynch, H.J., R. Naveen, and W.F. Fagan. 2008. Censuses of Penguins, Blue-Eyed Shags, and Southern Giant Petrel Populations in the Antarctic Peninsula, 2001-2007. Marine Ornithology 36: 83-97

Lynch, H.J., W.F. Fagan, R. Naveen, S.G. Trivelpiece, and W.Z. Trivelpiece. 2009. Timing of clutch initiation in Pygoscelis penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula: Towards an improved understanding of off-peak census correction factors. CCAMLR Science 16:149-165.

Chesalin, M. R. Naveen, H. Lynch, I. Bullock, M. Rider, A. Miller, S. Forrest, R. Dagit, I. Dykyy, and V. Timofeyev. 2009. Long-term changes in populations of seabirds on Petermann Island and surrounding islands in Graham Land, Antarctic Peninsula. Marine Ecological Journal VIII(3): 5-13.

Lynch, H.J., W.F. Fagan, and R. Naveen. 2010. Population trends and reproductive success at a frequently visited penguin colony on the Western Antarctic Peninsula. Polar Biology 33(4): 493-503.

Lynch, H.J., K. Crosbie, W.F. Fagan, R. Naveen. 2010. Spatial patterns of tour ship traffic in the Antarctic Peninsula region. Antarctic Science 22(2): 123-130.

Polito, M.J., H.J. Lynch, R. Naveen, and S. Emslie. 2011. Stable isotopes reveal regional heterogeneity in the pre-breeding distribution and diets of sympatrically breeding Pygoscelis spp. penguins. Marine Ecology Progress Series 421: 265-277.

Naveen, R., and H.J. Lynch, 2011. Compendium of Antarctica Peninsula Visitor Sites, 3rd Edition. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.

ASI PUBLICATIONS IN PRESS, IN REVIEW

Lynch, H.J., W.F. Fagan, R. Naveen, S.G. Trivelpiece, and W.Z. Trivelpiece. Climate change impacts breeding phenology and interspecific competition among sympatric penguin species. In press at Marine Ecology Progress Series .

Lynch, H.J., R. Naveen, P.N. Trathan and W.F. Fagan. Opportunistic census data reveal widespread changes in penguin populations. In review.

Casanovas, P., H.J. Lynch, and W.F. Fagan. Patterns of island biogeography among moss and lichen species on the Antarctic Peninsula. In review at Ecography.

Hart, T., L. McRae, and H.J. Lynch. Monitoring change in penguins using the Living Planet Index. In preparation.