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Poor outlook for biodiversity in Antarctica

PLOS

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IMAGE: These are Cabeater seals on an ice floe in the Antarctic Peninsula area. view more

Credit: Steven L. Chown

The popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in a much better environmental shape than the rest of the world has been brought into question in a study publishing on March 28 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, by an international team lead by Steven L. Chown and Monash University scientists.

The study compared the position of Antarctic biodiversity and its management with that globally using the Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) Aichi targets. The Aichi targets are part of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, adopted under the CBD, to assess progress in halting global biodiversity loss. Yet they have never been applied to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean -- areas which together account for about 10% of the planet's surface.

The study found that the difference between the status of biodiversity in the Antarctic and the rest of the world was negligible.

"The results have been truly surprising," said lead author and Head of the School of Biological Sciences at Monash, Professor Steven Chown.

"While in some areas, such as invasive species management, the Antarctic region is doing relatively well, in others, such as protected area management and regulation of bioprospecting, it is lagging behind," he said. "Overall, the biodiversity and conservation management outlook for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is no different to that for the rest of the planet."

"Despite our findings, there are great opportunities for positive action," said Monash co-author Professor Melodie McGeoch. "The agreements under the Antarctic Treaty System lend themselves to effective action, and nations have recently reinforced their desire to protect the region's biodiversity."

This latest analysis by scientists ensures that future assessments made under the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 will be truly global.

"It will also help inform global progress towards achieving the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals," Professor McGeoch said.

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In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS Biology: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2001656

Citation: Chown SL, Brooks CM, Terauds A, Le Bohec C, van Klaveren-Impagliazzo C, Whittington JD, et al. (2017) Antarctica and the strategic plan for biodiversity. PLoS Biol 15(3): e2001656. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.2001656

Funding: Centre Scientifique de Monaco http://www.centrescientifique.mc/en/ (grant number). Provided local support for the meeting. Received by all authors. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Monash University http://www.monash.edu.au (grant number). Supported travel of SLC, MAM, and BWTC. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research http://www.scar.org (grant number). Supported travel to the assessment meeting. Received by all authors except SLC, MAM, BWTC. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Government of the Principality of Monaco http://en.gouv.mc/ (grant number). Hosted the assessment meeting. Received by all authors. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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