These are Cabeater seals on an ice floe in the Antarctic Peninsula area.
Credit: Steven L. Chown
The popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in a much better environmental shape than the rest of the world has been brought into question in a study publishing on March 28 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, by an international team lead by Steven L. Chown and Monash University scientists.
The study found that the difference between the status of biodiversity in the Antarctic and the rest of the world was negligible.
“The results have been truly surprising,” said lead author and Head of the School of Biological Sciences at Monash, 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 said. “Overall, the biodiversity and conservation management outlook for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is no different to that for the rest of the planet.”
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“Despite our findings, there are great opportunities for positive action,” said Monash co-author Professor Melodie McGeoch. “The agreements under the Antarctic Treaty System lend themselves to effective action, and nations have recently reinforced their desire to protect the region’s biodiversity.”
This latest analysis by scientists ensures that future assessments made under the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 will be truly global.
“It will also help inform global progress towards achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals,” Professor McGeoch said.
Steven L. Chown, Cassandra M. Brooks, Aleks Terauds, Céline Le Bohec, Céline van Klaveren-Impagliazzo, Jason D. Whittington, Stuart H. M. Butchart, Bernard W. T. Coetzee, Ben Collen, Peter Convey, Kevin J. Gaston, Neil Gilbert, Mike Gill, Robert Höft, Sam Johnston, Mahlon C. Kennicutt, Hannah J. Kriesell, Yvon Le Maho, Heather J. Lynch, Maria Palomares, Roser Puig-Marcó, Peter Stoett, Melodie A. McGeoch. Antarctica and the strategic plan for biodiversity.PLOS Biology, 2017; 15 (3): e2001656 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2001656