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30 March 2017

International Study Highlights the True State of Antarctic Biodiversity

The Antarctic remains a true wilderness, and as such the popular view is that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are, in comparison to the rest of the world, in much better environmental shape. However, a new international study conducted by an interdisciplinary group of 23 researchers, including those from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), has shown that this is simply not the case.

Published on Tuesday 28th March in the journal PLoS Biology, the study compared Antarctic biodiversity and its management with that of other regions around the globe, making use of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Aichi targets. In an unexpected turn of events, the researchers found that any difference between the status of biodiversity in the Antarctic and the rest of the world was negligible.

“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.

“Overall, the biodiversity and conservation management outlook for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is no different to that for the rest of the planet.”

Terrestrial biologist Professor Pete Convey, of the British Antarctic Survey, said of the study’s unexpected results, “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 biodiversity protection in Antarctica.”

The Aichi targets referred to in the study are part of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. The plan and accompanying targets were adopted under the CBD in order to assess progress in halting global biodiversity loss, but until now they had not been applied to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

The BAS state in a post to their own website that, “This latest analysis by scientists ensures that future assessments made under the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 will be truly global.”

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.