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Conservation of Antarctica's plants and animals

Pete Convey (terrestrial biologist) studies living organisms around volcanic vents on Candlemas Island.
Pete Convey (terrestrial biologist) studies living organisms around volcanic vents on Candlemas Island.

Presentation summary for the IPY Science Conference 2010 in Oslo by Professor Pete Convey

Scientific research conducted in the Polar Regions is crucial for understanding the world. Antarctic and sub-Antarctic research stations are the hubs where ground breaking discoveries are made. However, scientists recognise that human occupation of these pristine environments has an impact on local plant and animal life and have a strong incentive to ensure effective conservation measures are in place.

This new review, based on existing and new data produced during the International Polar Year, summarises existing knowledge of the impacts of human activities on land-based (terrestrial) plants and animals and their ecosystems in Antarctica. It also identifies management priorities for their conservation in the face of increasing human activity.

Impacts already observed across many of the sub-Antarctic islands, and more limited examples from the Antarctic Peninsula region, stress the urgency to improve understanding of the requirements for (and delivery of) effective conservation measures at these locations. The report is a timely warning of the implications of human activity for terrestrial ecosystems on the Antarctic Peninsula and continent.

Session information

Professor Pete Convey

Tel: +44 (0)1223 221588

Tuesday 8 June @ 11.15
Session: T4-6

The conservation of Antarctic *flora and *fauna is regulated mainly under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (1991). The various sub-Antarctic islands are regulated separately with varying levels of environmental protection and management enacted under their national legal systems.

Since the creation and implementation of these national and international measures, the intensity and diversity of human activities have increased. New research stations, and improved ship and aircraft links, enable more people to have faster and easier access to and throughout Antarctica, while also greatly enhancing the pursuit of important scientific investigations. This inevitably poses challenges for the management and conservation of Antarctic ecosystems.

This paper sets the scene for engagement with national Antarctic operators, tourism organisations and conservation NGOs — all of which share the common interest and desire to minimise their environmental impact.


plant life
animal life