2017 News

Study finds poor outlook for biodiversity in Antarctica

29 March 2017:

1Monaco Assessment group with HSH Prince Albert II of MonacoAn international study, led by SCAR President Professor Steven Chown, has questioned the widely held 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.

It follows a meeting of biodiversity, legal and policy experts held in June 2015 to assess Antarctic and Southern Ocean biodiversity and its conservation status in the context of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011 to 2020, developed under the aegis of the CBD and broadly adopted. The meeting was organized by SCAR in partnership with the government of the Principality of Monaco and Monash University and resulted in the publication in 2015 of the Monaco Assessment.

The study published today presents the full assessment, along with comprehensive evidence underpinning the assessment.

“The results have been truly surprising,” said Professor 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. 

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.

 “Despite our findings, there are great opportunities for positive action,” said 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.”

SCAR and partners are undertaking work to provide the basis for an Antarctic biodiversity strategy and action plan.

Chown SL, Brooks CM, Terauds A, Le Bohec C, van Klaveren-Impagliazzo C, Whittington JD, et al. (2017) “Antarctica and the strategic plan for biodiversity.” PLoS Biol 15(3): e2001656. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2001656

For more information on the Monaco Assessment see here.