A call to better protect Antarctic biodiversity

Only 1% of Antarctica is free from ice. These areas are critical to the conservation of Antarctic biodiversity but only 1.5% of this ice-free space is formally protected. (Photo by Aleks Terauds)

Only 1% of Antarctica is free from ice. These areas are critical to the
conservation of Antarctic biodiversity but only 1.5% of this ice-free
space is formally protected. (Photo by Aleks Terauds)

The ‘last wilderness on Earth’ requires a better system of protected areas according to NERP ED researcherJustine Shaw. That wilderness, of course, is Antarctica.

Most of Antarctica is covered in ice, with less than 1% permanently ice-free. This ice-free land is where the majority of biodiversity occurs yet only 1.5% of these important areas belong to Antarctic Specially Protected Areas under the Antarctic Treaty System.

Although the Antarctic environment is less utilised and populated than others, activities permitted on the continent such as road and building construction, vehicle traffic and waste disposal are having substantial impacts on biodiversity.

What is required now is a systematic network designed to best conserve the biodiversity of Antarctica as a whole. Once a protected area is designated and human activity restricted, management efforts are relatively minimal compared to protected-area management requirements on other continents. And what we would gain would be a protected area network that everyone could truly be proud of.

See Decision Point #81 for the complete story


Reference

Shaw JD, A Terauds, MJ Riddle, HP Possingham & SL Chown (2014). Antarctica’s Protected Areas Are Inadequate, Unrepresentative, and at Risk. PLoS Biol 12(6): e1001888. doi:10.1371/journal. pbio.1001888

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