State of the Antarctic Ecosystem (AntEco)

Terms of Reference

Milestones and deliverables of AntEco will be structured around three overarching inter-disciplinary questions:

  1. How has Antarctic biodiversity evolved in response to past environmental change and what does this tell us about its capacity to respond to future changes?
  2. What are the systematic and environmental geographic features of Antarctic biodiversity, and what mechanisms underpin the current distribution and abundance of biodiversity?
  3. Given the evolved geographic distribution of diversity and forecast threats, what conservation actions are required for the preservation of biodiversity, and mitigation of, and adaptation to, change?

Aligned with these overarching questions, are the priority objectives of each research sector.

Spatial ecology

  • Develop bio-physical models and provide insights into the relationship between organisms (both native and non-native) and their environment,
  • Identify biodiversity hotspots, glacial refugia and vulnerable areas,
  • Use biodiversity values to support spatial conservation planning decisions.

Molecular ecology and evolution

  • Increase understanding of the molecular evolutionary history of Antarctic and Southern Ocean biota,
  • Implement established and 3rd generation sequencing techniques for exploring micro and macroevolutionary processes,
  • Develop autecological studies which enhance our understanding of individual species’ functional roles,
  • Determine how climatic, oceanographic and tectonic changes have shaped evolution.

Ecoinformatics and systems biology

  • Initiate and undertake large scale data syntheses,
  • Identify and increase understanding of emergent properties,
  • Use hypotheses driven research to understand the ecological roles of microbes in Antarctic ecosystems.


  • Determine late Quaternary and Holocene changes in biodiversity and identify which environmental factors are significantly related to these changes,
  • Use ancient DNA and bimolecular archaeological studies to elucidate past genetic diversity and paleoenvironments,
  • Examine the history of glaciation and its impact on biodiversity.

Impacts, trends and conservation

  • Provide the CEP with the tools it requires to properly manage and preserve the Antarctic environment,
  • Increase understanding of mitigation and management of threats from species transfer,
  • Promote evidence-based protected area designation ensuring comprehensive, adequate and representative protection.