Poor outlook for Antarctic biodiversity

March 29, 2017, British Antarctic Survey
Emperor Penguins on sea ice off southwest coast of Snow Hill Island. Snow Hill Island colony is the most northerly colony with the warmest average temperatures, therefore it is likely to be the most vulnerable to climate change. Credit: British Antarctic Survey

An international study involving scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has debunked the popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in a much better environmental shape than the rest of the world.

The study, published today in PLoS Biology and involving an interdisciplinary group of 23 researchers compared the position of Antarctic biodiversity and its management with that globally using the Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) Aichi targets.

"The results have been truly surprising," says lead author and Head of the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University, Professor Steven Chown.

"While in some areas, such as invasive species management, the Antarctic region is doing relatively well, in others, such as protected area management and regulation of bioprospecting, it is lagging behind," he says.

The study found that the difference between the status of biodiversity in the Antarctic and the rest of the world was negligible.

"Overall, the biodiversity and conservation management outlook for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is no different to that for the rest of the planet," Professor Chown said.

The Aichi targets are part of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020, adopted under the CBD, to assess progress in halting global biodiversity loss. Yet they have never been applied to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean – areas which together account for about 10 percent of the planet's surface.

Terrestrial biologist Professor Pete Convey from British Antarctic Survey says:

"The realisation that Antarctic biodiversity is far less well protected than many would think is important. However, the fact that the mechanisms and knowledge are already in place within the ATCM provides much encouragement for the future, and indeed given the will and engagement now from Antarctic Treaty Parties, there is nothing to stop immediate and very positive progress in protection in Antarctica."

This latest analysis by scientists ensures that future assessments made under the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 will be truly global.

Explore further: Antarctic life – highly diverse, unusually structured

More information: Steven L. Chown et al. Antarctica and the strategic plan for biodiversity, PLOS Biology (2017). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2001656

Related Stories

Antarctic life – highly diverse, unusually structured

June 25, 2015

The variety of plant and animal life in the Antarctic is much greater than previously thought, reveals an assessment of Antarctic biodiversity published by a team of scientists in the journal Nature this week.

Government publishes UK Antarctic science strategy

July 17, 2014

A framework document, 'UK Science in Antarctica 2014-2020,' is published today (Wednesday 16 July). Prepared by the UK National Committee for Antarctic Research on behalf of the UK Antarctic community it creates a framework ...

Five facts about Antarctic sanctuaries

October 28, 2016

Agreement was reached Friday to create a vast US and New Zealand-backed Antarctic marine sanctuary in the Ross Sea—the world's largest—at a meeting of the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in ...

Three urgent steps for better protected areas

November 5, 2015

A group of scientists have developed a three-point plan to ensure the world's protected areas meet new biodiversity targets set by the 193 signatory nations of the Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD). They recognize ...

Recommended for you

Rainfall's natural variation hides climate change signal

February 22, 2018

New research from The Australian National University (ANU) and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science suggests natural rainfall variation is so great that it could take a human lifetime for significant climate ...

Seasonal patterns in the Amazon explained

February 22, 2018

Environmental scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have led an international collaboration to improve satellite observations of tropical forests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.