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SPRI Review 1998: Polar Ecology and Management Group

Polar Ecology and Management Group

Dr B Stonehouse

P.K. Crosbie, A.J. Nimon

The group has continued to study and play active roles in ecological issues relating to polar tourism. Our experience in shipborne tourism in both polar regions allowed us to contribute substantially to the WWF Arctic initiative, 'Arctic tourism: linking tourism and conservation in the Arctic.' This resulted in the publication, in WWF Antarctic Bulletin (December 1997), of 'Principles and codes for Arctic tourism,' copies of which have been circulated to tour operators all over the Arctic.

Shipborne studies have continued mainly in the Antarctic. Dr Stonehouse's three-year project with the Department of Antarctic Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences, on developing and monitoring tourist educational facilities of Henryk Arctowski Station, King George Island, was suspended for the season, due to a major rebuilding programme at the station. However, research into respiration and heartbeat during sleep apnoea in three species of seals was continued by a Polish colleague, post-graduate student Ms Katazyna Salwicka. Under the exchange scheme sponsored by the British Council. Dr Stonehouse made two visits to the Department in Warsaw, to plan for continuing research from 1998 onward. The first papers reporting on this project are now in press. Dr Stonehouse also made a cruise-ship voyage via the Atlantic islands to South Georgia, continuing research on the potential for tourism on these islands, and on the vulnerability of South Georgia landing sites.

Again under British Council sponsorship, in October 1997 Dr Stonehouse made a second visit to Trebon, South Bohemia and Brno, in the Czech Republic, lecturing at workshops, and holding discussions with scientists of the Czech research station on King George Island. For joint use with several other nations, the station is intended to become a focus of summer preglacial and terrestrial ecology studies at Cape Lion Rump and other locations in the area, including both tourist landing sites and control areas. As in previous years, the Council funded reciprocal visits allowing Polish and Czech scientists to visit and hold discussions at the Institute and the British Antarctic Survey.

In April 1998, Dr Stonehouse addressed a seminar on Antarctic studies at the University of Bologna, Italy, concerning research opportunities in polar tourism management. In May he lectured on tourism and management issues in the Institut für Polarokologie, Christian-Albrechts-Universitat, Kiel, Germany, and took part in a three-day workshop on human impacts on Antarctic mammals and birds, contributing to a report for the Umweltbundesant (Federal Environmental Agency), the agency responsible for permitting German-sponsored activities in Antarctica.

Ms Amanda Nimon (Research student) completed her four-year project on heartbeat and respiration changes in gentoo penguins in response to natural stimuli and human visits. The project, undertaken in cooperation with Professor Robert Schroter, Imperial College, London, required three seasons' fieldwork at the Institute's research station on Cuverville Island (Danco Coast, Antarctic Peninsula), and involved the development of equipment - artificial eggs with infra-red sensors - that made it unnecessary to touch or handle any of the birds, thus eliminating possibilities of experimentally induced trauma. Key aspects of the study have been published, and Ms Nimon has been awarded a PhD degree.

Kim Crosbie (Research student) made several voyages to both polar regions in her capacity as cruise-ship expedition leader, taking opportunities for further research in her long-term studies of passenger operations, impacts, and management of landing sites, especially in Antarctica. In June Ms Crosbie completed a doctorial thesis on monitoring and management of tourist landing sites in the maritime Antarctic.

In July Dr Stonehouse co-chaired with Dr John Snyder, of the Environmental Policy and Management department, University of Denver, a three-day workshop on aspects of environmental management in Antarctica. The workshop, held at the University of Denver, was concerned in particular with the use of coastal lands in Antarctica for recreational purposes in the absence of (a) management-defined objectives and policies and (b) strategic management planning. Attended by representatives of the US National Science Foundation, UN Environmental Program, Antarctic Support Associates, and others with experience of environmental management in wilderness areas, the workshop marked the start of a joint Denver/Cambridge initiative of field and desk studies, leading to a model for comprehensive management of Antarctic tourism under the Antarctic Treaty.