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anteco logo transparentBiological diversity is the sum of all organisms in a system. These organisms collectively determine how ecosystems function and underpin the life-support system of our planet. The SCAR-Biology Programme - State of the Antarctic Ecosystem (AntEco) has been designed to focus on past and present patterns of biodiversity across all environments within the Antarctic, sub-Antarctic and Southern Ocean regions. The broad objectives of the programme are to increase the scientific knowledge of biodiversity, from genes to ecosystems that, coupled with increased knowledge of species biology, can be used for the conservation and management of Antarctic ecosystems.

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Through the development and maintenance of an international research network, AntEco aims to inform our understanding of current biodiversity and patterns therein, to distinguish the impact of present processes from historical signals, and to use this knowledge to develop scenarios of its future state through interdisciplinary approaches.

To do so we will promote the use of both established and innovative technologies, on scales from the latest molecular analyses to remote sensing, that will provide the means for synthesis and integration across the entire region over physical and temporal scales and resolutions that until now have not been possible.

While the scope of research activities supported will be broad, research priorities will be directed towards science that is policy relevant and assists in guiding management and conservation in the region.

Research Sectors

AntEco is structured into five research sectors, each with a sector leader:

  1. Spatial Ecology (Huw Griffiths, British Antarctic Survey, UK)
  2. Molecular Ecology and Evolution (Jan Strugnell, Latrobe University, Australia)
  3. Ecoinformatics and Systems Biology (Alison Murray, Desert Research Institute, USA)
  4. Paleoecology (Dominic Hodgson, British Antarctic Survey, UK)
  5. Impacts, trends and conservation (Annick Wilmotte, University Liège, Belgium).

Research will not be carried out in isolation within these sectors. Multidisciplinary approaches are a key guiding principle within AntEco, with collaborations encouraged not only between research sectors, but also more broadly across SCAR Research Programmes and other relevant SCAR Standing Committees and Expert Groups.

For more information about the goals and objectives of AntEco, take a look at the pdf implementation plan (676 KB) .


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.