Heard Island Project – Discovering Life in the Extremes
Several years back I was looking for a new “extreme” adventure to get myself involved with. Something completely different, and here it is – the Heard Island Expedition 2016.
Heard Island is a large (20×30 km, 368 km2), subantarctic island lying at 53°S, 73°E, nearly 1000 nautical miles from Antarctica and more than 2500 nautical miles from Africa and from Australia. It has a 2745-m active volcano, about a dozen fast-moving (and retreating) glaciers, large populations of seals, penguins, and seabirds, and extensive areas of mosses and grasses. While about 300 species of plants and animals have been recorded from the island, estimates indicate that perhaps 300 more species, mostly in the size range 0.1-10 mm, remain to be discovered. These missing species are a major part of the island’s biodiversity; they are crucial to our understanding of the extreme ecosystem.
The primary goal of the expedition is to discover and document the missing species in order to complete the known biodiversity of this extremely isolated, extremely limited ecosystem. The compelling reason for the expedition emerges from two facts:
Heard Island has no recognized human-introduced species; and Heard Island is extremely sensitive to the global climate.
This fortuitous (and possibly unique) combination offers a remarkable opportunity to separate the effects of natural climate change from anthropogenic effects. Completion of the species list will enable more quantitative tests of the effects of global climate on polar regions. Thus, the primary motivation for the Project is to take advantage of the opportunity to obtain primary data crucial to our ability to predict and manage the future of the Earth’s biosphere.
If you want to know more feel free to click through to the expedition web site and dig into the documents that are located there.
Check out the Heard Island Planning page to stay in touch with the expedition team and planning requirements.