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Human Presence vs. Climate Change in Antarctica
Convey, P. 2011. Antarctic terrestrial biodiversity in a changing world. Polar Biology 34: 1629-1641.

Setting the stage for his review and analysis, the author writes that the unique biota of Antarctica currently faces "the twin challenges of responding to the complex processes of climate change facing some parts of the continent, and the direct impacts associated with human occupation and activity."

What was done
In an invited contribution to Polar Biology built around the concept of Global Tipping Points, Convey reviews what has been learned to date about the impacts of human activities on and around Antarctica over the past century or more.

What was learned
In the words of the British Antarctic Survey scientist, Antarctica's unique biota "is likely to benefit, initially at least, from the current environmental changes, and there is an expectation of increased production, biomass, population size, community complexity, and colonization." But he notes that these beneficial impacts of climate change "may themselves be outweighed by other, direct, impacts of human activities, and in particular, the introduction of non-indigenous organisms from which until recently the terrestrial ecosystems of the continent have been protected." In addition, he reports that "the same areas in which terrestrial ecosystems are best developed and charismatic megafauna congregate are those in which research stations and facilities are preferentially constructed and operated through ease of logistic access, and tourism operations take place through presence of attractive organisms, ecosystems and vistas," and he notes that this combination of continental features and human response to them "drastically magnifies the risk of deleterious human impacts," further stating that "the level of human activity in this region is generally greater today than it has ever been."

What it means
In Antarctica, as in essentially every other part of the planet that has ever been visited or inhabited by man, it has been humanity's direct influence on native plants and animals and their immediate environment that has led to their degradation and oftentimes ultimate demise, as opposed to the impact of some imaginary human-induced global climate change. Thus, we need to think and act, not globally but locally, where something effective and useful can actually be accomplished in this regard, and not waste our time and money on the will-o'-the wisp notion that we can alter the climate of the entire planet, in the false hope that it will lessen all of the woes we have unleashed upon the world's other inhabitants.

Reviewed 29 February 2012