Reducing human impact in the Antarctic: Report

Reducing human impact in the Antarctic: Report

Findings from the first comprehensive environmental assessment of the Australian Antarctic Division’s Casey research station suggest better data will be key to reducing the impact of future operations.

Improvements in data collection, better monitoring equipment and behaviour change were among the key recommendations in the report, the findings of which were published this week in the Journal of Industrial Ecology.

The result of a six-year study undertaken by RMIT and Swinburne Universities, the report is the first comprehensive assessment of the environmental impact of Australia’s Antarctic infrastructure.

The researchers were commissioned by the Australian Antarctic Division to look at the life cycle of Casey research station to determine where the impact of operations could be reduced.

Lead researcher, RMIT’s Associate Professor Karli Verghese, said the findings provide a roadmap for the AAD to reduce the environmental impact of the station.

“We modelled scenarios around freight management options, energy efficiency, generation and storage, and wastewater management to identify the best approaches going forward,” said Verghese.

“This information will help inform the future operations of the station, ensuring the AAD can reduce the environmental impact of having people in this environment.”

The AAD received early findings from the study in 2018 and is looking for opportunities to implement some of the recommendations in current and future operations.  

AAD’s Environmental Manager, Andy Sharman, said the Division continually seeks opportunities to improve efficiency and reduce environmental impacts in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

“This work provides us with a detailed assessment that we can use when upgrading our existing station infrastructure and plan for new capabilities such as the arrival of Australia’s new icebreaker, RSV Nuyina and the development of an inland traverse capability.  

In March 2019, the AAD installed the first Australian solar farm in Antarctica at Casey research station, providing up to 30 kilowatts of power and already saving close to 4000 litres of diesel.

“The energy savings from this system are expected to increase even more through the peak of summer when there is almost 24 hours daylight,” Mr Sharman said.

The AAD runs four permanent research stations, three on the Antarctic continent and one on Macquarie Island in the sub-Antarctic.

Insights from the report will help to compare and benchmark between stations and to guide future projects.

The Journal of Industrial Ecology has just published two academic papers 'The environmental impacts of operating an Antarctic research station' and 'Development of an environmental impact reduction strategy for Australia’s Antarctic infrastructure' that can be downloaded for free for the next three months.

Media enquiries: Claire Slattery, +61 401 369 841 or claire.slattery@rmit.edu.au

14 February 2020

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  • Sustainability
  • Environment
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