Temporal and spatial patterns of anthropogenic disturbance at McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Kennicutt II, Mahlon C
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Human visitations to Antarctica have increased in recent decades, raising concerns about preserving the continent's environmental quality. To understand the spatial and temporal patterns of anthropogenic disturbances at the largest scientific station in Antarctica, McMurdo Station, a long-term monitoring program has been implemented. Results from the first nine years (1999–2007) of monitoring are reported. Most physical disturbance of land surfaces occurred prior to 1970 during initial establishment of the station. Hydrocarbons from fuel and anthropogenic metals occur in patches of tens to hundreds of square meters in areas of fuel usage and storage. Most soil contaminant concentrations are not expected to elicit biological responses. Past disposal practices have contaminated marine sediments with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), petroleum hydrocarbons, and metals in close proximity to the station that often exceed concentrations expected to elicit biological responses. Chemical contamination and organic enrichment reduced marine benthic ecological integrity within a few hundred meters offshore of the station. Contaminants were detected in marine benthic organisms confirming bioavailability and uptake. PCBs in sediments are similar to suspected source materials, indicating minimal microbial degradation decades after release. Anthropogenic disturbance of the marine environment is likely to persist for decades. A number of monitoring design elements, indicators and methodologies used in temperate climates were effective and provide guidance for monitoring programs elsewhere in Antarctica.