Current conservation efforts under the provisions of a major international treaty to protect the Antarctic are “insufficient” to halt population declines of most Antarctic life, according to a new study. However, scientists note that there are low-cost strategies that could more effectively protect the continent.
The study, which was published today in the journal PLOS Biology, found that unless more intensive conservation efforts are undertaken by the global community, population declines will continue for approximately 67% of terrestrial species and seabirds that call Antarctica home. Despite protections from the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, which has been in effect since 1998, emperor penguins are at particularly high risk of population decline, followed by a species of roundworm, Adélie penguins, and other seabirds. Authors of the study write that conservation of Antarctic species is key for developing new technologies or medicines, and for protecting the continent itself, which provides “essential ecosystem services” like regulating the global climate.
“Antarctica is not safe from global threats. It’s not as safe as we thought it was. And we need global action to help save it,” said Jasmine Lee, a research fellow at the British Antarctic Survey and the lead author on the paper.