Protecting Heard Island's environment

A range of environmental mitigation strategies and actions were employed to protect Heard Island’s environment during the 2003-04 expedition. In particular, a detailed environmental assessment was prepared prior to the expedition, pursuant to the Heard Island Wilderness Reserve Management Plan. The assessment identified a number of possible environmental impacts:

  • the introduction of alien species to the island
  • disruption to wildlife populations
  • trampling of vegetation and disturbance to soil
  • pollution from chemicals and wastes
  • effect of human activity on cultural heritage
  • temporary loss of wilderness and aesthetic values from the establishment of base camps.

Specific actions to mitigate these environmental impacts included:

  • strict quarantine measures such as the purchase of new equipment, non supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, and rigorous cleaning and inspection regimes on all cargo
  • presence of restricted areas and controls on vehicle movements, field camp locations and wildlife approach distances
  • deployment of Unusual Animal Mortality Response Kits in the event of a disease outbreak
  • deployment of field fuel spill kits to prevent and clean up fuel spills
  • reduced packaging on all cargo to minimise waste prior to departure
  • removal of solid waste from current and previous expeditions, and proper disposal of liquid waste
  • preparation of an Environmental Code of Conduct
  • a comprehensive environmental training programme for all participants
  • an environmental reporting regime while on the island and upon return.

For more information contact the Operations environment advisor at opsenviro@aad.gov.au.

Shaun Walsh
Environment Advisor – Operations Branch,
Australian Antarctic Division