A snapshot of biodiversity protection in Antarctica

Journal: Nature Communications

Published: 2019-02-26

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-08915-6

Affiliations: 3

Authors: 3

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Research Highlight

Safest to be a seabird at the South Pole

© Goddard_Photography/Getty

© Goddard_Photography/Getty

Conservation efforts in Antarctica are biased towards charismatic creatures like penguins and seabirds.

Antarctic flora and fauna are as threatened by climate change, pollution and disruptive human activities as the rest of the world, despite being so remote, relatively untouched, and protected by international conservation treaties.

A team that included researchers from the University of Queensland used newly available biodiversity distribution data to assess protection measures across the entire continent. Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs) cover just 2% of the continent, yet contain 44% of all Antarctic species, from lichens to seagulls. However, protection measures are uneven. Only a third of plant and moss species are in ASPAs, and skuas and penguins are found in more ASPAs than any other animal.

A more systematic approach to creating ASPAs, based on all the available biodiversity data, could help conservationists prioritize those species most vulnerable to external threats.

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  1. Nature Communications 10, 946 (2019). doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-08915-6
Institutions Share
University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (UK) 0.33
The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia 0.33
Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), AWE, Australia 0.33