4 November 2016: Contributed by Aleks Terauds
Although relatively rare and small in extent, Antarctica’s terrestrial geothermal environments are of high scientific value to a wide range of disciplines. Recent evidence suggests that these environments support unique and diverse biological communities, and that they have played an important role as biological refugia for a range of species. However, these ecosystems are vulnerable to disturbance and at risk from introduced species, ground disturbance, or other damage by human activity.
In recognition of the high scientific interest, and in light of the potential for disturbance, a multi-stakeholder workshop was held in 2014 to identify and develop a strategy for managing and protecting these unique environments. Based on this consultation and with advice from SCAR, a Code of Conduct for Activity within Terrestrial Geothermal Environments in Antarctica was developed to establish principles and to provide practical guidance on field procedures and protocols to help maintain the unique environmental and scientific values of terrestrial geothermal sites across the continent.
At the XIX Meeting of the Committee for Environmental Protection in 2016, SCAR introduced Working Paper 23 -SCAR Code of Conduct for Activity within Terrestrial Geothermal Environments in Antarctica. SCAR highlighted the high level of consultation undertaken in the development of the Code of Conduct, including a broad cross-section of the scientific community and COMNAP. The SCAR Code of Conduct was endorsed by means of Resolution 3 (2016) at Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting XXXIX. This was the first SCAR Code of Conduct to be endorsed by means of Resolution by the Consultative Parties, and consideration is currently being given to the submission of other SCAR Codes of Conduct for similar endorsement at future ATCMs.