Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Planning for an Expanding Ice-Free Antarctica

By Jasmine Lee

Climate change will increase the amount of ice-free land in Antarctica by 25% this century.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Mention Antarctica and nature, and most people think killer whales, seals and penguins. But there is so much more when it comes to biodiversity on this frozen continent. Often overlooked is a large suite of native species only found on the land. This terrestrial biodiversity consists of microbes, moss, lichen, two native plants and a large array of invertebrates including tardigrades, springtails, nematodes and mites. Some of these species occur nowhere else in the world and have developed a range of amazing adaptations to survive.

Antarctica’s terrestrial biodiversity is quite constrained, limited to the small patches of ice-free land that make up less than 1% of the continent. Ice-free areas occur on mountain tops, cliffs or coastal oases, and can vary in size from a couple of square metres to hundreds of square kilometres. Many species are only found in a single patch or region, and some patches may be separated by hundreds of kilometres from their nearest neighbour.

Antarctica has been widely proclaimed as a pristine “nature reserve”. Despite this, Antarctica and its dependent biodiversity are not as well-protected as you might think. Terrestrial biodiversity is at risk from climate change, invasive species and expanding human activity.

Furthermore, the Antarctic protected area network has been labelled as inadequate, unrepresentative and at risk...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.