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Thursday, 6 September 2018

Sudden boom in tourism to Antarctica could threaten its fragile ecosystem

A sudden boom in tourism to Antarctica could threaten the continent’s already fragile ecosystem and further worsen global warming, according to the Financial Times. The continent’s current status as an uninhabited natural reserve has piqued the interest of many, including wealthy travelers who have no qualms spending five figures to board ships that take them directly to Antarctica’s shores. A large part of the issue is that Antarctica has no government and nobody to monitor tourism activity on the ground, making accountability fickle. One ecologist “warns that proliferating cruise ships will run out of sites and will have to range farther, visiting penguins unaccustomed to humans. ‘Unhabituated penguins are much flightier, much more aggressive and vocal when approached by humans … and much more likely to simply abandon their nests when approached.’”

Rising tourism in the South Pole isn’t all bad, though: Scientists have not found any evidence of higher levels of stress hormones in penguins living in areas that see a high influx of tourists. “Researchers also benefit from data crowdsourced from cruise-ship passengers participating in citizen-science initiatives — recording water temperatures, turbidity and other indicators. Travellers returning from Antarctica are a constituency that generally favours conservation.”

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