Antarctica, 'heart of the Earth' needs protection: expert

Antarctica may be remote and uninhabited, but it is suffering from man's activities, says the director of the Chilean Antarctic Institute, Marcelo Leppe.

Why is Antarctica important? 

The world's main marine current is the circumpolar Antarctic current that moves from west to east around Antarctica. It appeared 13 million years ago and it has frozen a continent that was green in the past. This current has connections with the ocean currents around the world.

It's like a heart because every year it changes its shape from 14 million square kilometers to more than 20 million. It expands in winter with the sea ice and retreats in summer ... You can see it beating, really beating.

And the subantarctic current is moving around the world like a circulatory system. It's probably playing a major role in the control of climate change. 

What is the impact of climate change on Antarctica?   

In the last 50 years, probably 15 percent of all the ice has disappeared.

In areas that are left without ice, the recolonization of plants and other organisms that were not present in Antarctica before.

In 2100, it is possible that more than 35 percent of the ice will have disappeared. The landscape of the Antarctic peninsula will be different and the dynamics of the sea currents will also definitely be different.

Are there any other threats? Why should we be concerned?

Antarctica is not as isolated as we think. Microplastics are starting to be a big issue in Antarctica. They are everywhere, for example, in the eggs of penguins.

So what we produce in the rest of the world is reaching Antarctica and this nature that looks very untouched is actually impacted by human. 

When you have a continent that is regulating the weather, the climate around the world, with these teleconnections (related to each other at great distances), of course you have to pay attention.

(All images via VCG.)

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Source(s): AFP