Antarctica is currently the largest protected area in the world. But people have been exploring this icy continent. Scientists have calculated the extent of the human ‘footprint’ on Antarctica by analyzing satellite data for the period from 2005 to 2016.
© NaniP | Shutterstock
According to their study, all buildings in Antarctica cover 0.4 square kilometers, which is comparable to the area of Vatican City. At the same time, 81% of them occupy 54,274 square kilometers of the continent’s ice-free area, which is less than 0.5% of entire ice-free Antarctica.
The visual footprint, meaning land and water areas with visible human activity, extends 93,500 square kilometers, with land alone accounting for 58,500 square kilometers.
The total area of Antarctic territories with direct human intervention amounts to 5,242 square kilometers. More than half of the large ice-free areas off the coast that are home to penguins and other Antarctic species, have a human ‘footprint’. To protect the continent from human activity, a treaty was signed in 1961 to regulate it.
The study was published in the Nature Sustainability journal.