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Antarctic Near-shore and Terrestrial Observing System (ANTOS)

The Antarctic Near-Shore and Terrestrial Observation System (ANTOS) is a biologically-focussed initiative to coordinate a cross-continent and cross-national programme-scale assessment of environmental variability and change. It was established in response to the need identified in multiple sectors for long-term commitment to acquire basic information to underpin identification of trends and changes in iconic Antarctic ecosystems. Such information transcends short-term national funding regimes, yet is crucial for informing management approaches and strategies that national bodies must address.

Following a workshop held in August 2014 at the SCAR Open Science Conference in Auckland, ANTOS was established as a SCAR Action Group, with a remit to further develop the ideas behind ANTOS. The Action Group continued until 2016 at which point it was approved to transition to an Expert Group with a lifetime of eight years. 

In 2015, the ANTOS International Workshop was held to develop an implementation plan, detailed in the Workshop Report. A series of next steps were formulated that would need to be addressed before the 2016 SCAR Open Science Conference (OSC) in Kuala Lumpur and these were undertaken by the Group.

An ANTOS workshop was held prior to the 2016 OSC.  More information on the ANTOS News page.

Goals of ANTOS:

ANTOS is being designed to be of interest to all national programmes. Its goals are to:

  • Establish an observation network of representative core ‘nodal’ sites in the terrestrial and nearshore environments around Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic;
  • Measure parameters long term that will enhance understanding of biological response to environmental change;
  • Stimulate the development of new observation technologies, data capture, and data sharing;
  • Encourage buy-in and involvement of all national programmes through a ‘tiered observation network’ that requires varying levels of resourcing, logistic and scientific capabilities;
  • Provide opportunity for alignment of national and international programmes and projects, and an observational platform to underpin SCAR science activities;
  • Provide information to assist evidence-based conservation and policy decisions.

An implementation plan was developed at the ANTOS Workshop in August 2015 which outlined the configuration philosophy:

  • ANTOS should be of interest to all national programmes. Consequently, the design includes a three-tiered approach, from basic and relatively inexpensive to more complex and more expensive.
  • At least one site in each of the Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Conservation Biogeographic Regions is planned to begin to meet the goal of wide spatial coverage, forming the basis of ANTOS core ‘nodal sites’. Within sites, data will be collected, ranging from simple to more complex relating to scientific questions and instrumentation with installations.
  • At all levels of surveillance, biologically relevant attributes of change will be made within six broad criteria: physical environment, colonisation, diversity, distribution, function, and genetics. These criteria were chosen as they encompass desirable parameters required for detecting, understanding, and interpreting change in both marine and terrestrial systems.
  • Ideally, all ANTOS installations within ANTOS sites should be identical in design and makeup (for marine and terrestrial, respectively). Instrumentation used needs to measure a suite of agreed parameters at the specified resolution and temporal scale so that data can be harmonised and usefully compared.
  • Widespread engagement with ANTOS is key. The success of ANTOS will be measured by the continental coverage and national programme participation, and by long-term sustainability of the monitoring effort. The workshop participants felt that the highly comparable data collected will not only be immediately important at local scales, but will become increasingly valued as the most comprehensive continental scale long-term data set of its kind on Earth. 

Following the period of development of the ANTOS concept since 2014 as an Action Group, in 2016 ANTOS applied successfully to become an Expert Group within SCAR. This ensures that long-term status is confirmed, with a lifetime of eight years, as the Group moves from development towards implementation.

Terms of reference

To establish an integrated and coordinated trans-continental and trans-regional environmental surveillance system to identify and track environmental variability and change at biologically relevant scales. This valuable information will be used to provide a more complete understanding of changes occurring in the Antarctic region, by informing biological, physical, and earth science studies.