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Report on the 2015 Antarctic Near-shore and Terrestrial Observing System (ANTOS) Action Group Workshop
Antarctic Near-Shore and Terrestrial Observation System (ANTOS) is a SCAR Action Group, established in August 2014. It is a biologically focussed initiative to coordinate a cross continent- and cross national programme-scale assessment of environmental variability and change. A major aim is to foster and facilitate collection and sharing of long-term automated climate and associated environmental observations across Antarctica and national programmes. In August 2015, a workshop was held to develop an implementation plan for ANTOS. The workshop was attended by 25 researchers from 12 countries (Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, NZ, Sweden, UK, USA).
At this workshop key characteristics of locations, parameters to measure, frequencies, scales and gradients of measurement, and the technical requirements of the system were discussed (i.e., what do we need to measure and monitor in order to detect change, where do we need to do this, and how?). The strong consensus was for locations that share basic characteristics of (a) representative biodiversity for the region concerned, (b) environmental features likely to be informative in a context of change studies, and (c) the practicality of access and working conditions. A 3-tiered approach both to platform complexity and cost was recommended, to enable wide national programme involvement and achievement of the scientific goals. At all tiers, biologically relevant attributes of change need to be assessed within six broad criteria (physical environment, colonisation, diversity, distribution, functional and genetic). ANTOS installations will use a suite of agreed methodologies to enable robust cross-programme and continent-wide comparisons of information. An ANTOS database will be designed and established to allow easy access to the real-time data that is intimately linked with existing databases and follows internationally accepted protocols.
The strength of ANTOS is its (i) unification of researchers over the necessity for, and the extreme value of, a long-term vision for observation systems to understand biological systems in a changing environment, and (ii) the comprehensive continent-wide approach. The value of this information in informing policy and management of the region at national and international levels cannot be understated.