Does Antarctica wilderness need further scientific assessment?

Does Antarctica wilderness need further scientific assessment?

Each ecosystem from the Earth is an important area to maintain biodiversity and functional large-scale ecosystem. The great damage to Earth’s wilderness has led to urgent calls for action to protect it. The protection of Antarctica has been identified as one of the crucial actions to be taken. Actually, Antarctica has an important role in the global climate system and in preserving lives. 


Despite its isolation, human obtrusion is still increasing there. Antarctic wilderness richness remain unprotected from the impacts of growing infrastructure, and tourism activities.

Scientifics has reported that continued human presence throughout the most biodiverse areas of Antarctica over the past 200 years has affected these areas in both obvious ways (infrastructure, vegetation trampling, sealing) and more subtle ways (microbial contamination, wildlife and soil disturbance, pollution, human-mediated dispersal of indigenous and alien species). Human activity has also been extensive across Antarctica wilderness, leading to a fragmented and diminishing set of pristine, inviolate areas free from  human interference. 

Intact wilderness elsewhere on the globe is usually valued for its biodiversity and ecosystem services, including its roles in water catchment, food security, recreation, carbon storage and sequestration, and as a megafaunal refuge. But for Antarctica’s most valuable biodiversity sites, this is still not well valued or represented.

Recognizing that inviolate areas need to be visited to ascertain their biodiversity value, we do not yet know whether Antarctica’s inviolate areas are generally depauperate in terms of biodiversity. However, recent investigations of life in ice, snow and airborne assemblages have revealed surprising microbial diversity and likely extensive habitat across glaciated regions.

 Microplastics in the stomachs of Atlantic Ocean fishes

Human activity in Antarctica is in theory more easily regulated than elsewhere because it is restricted to science and tourism, with few other human activities or permanent inhabitants.


Evidence-based planning for new protected areas, with explicit consideration of the trade-offs between the benefits of science and tourism and the importance of retaining pristine wilderness areas or regaining their biodiversity value through the spatial restriction of human activity, could therefore readily be implemented. Inviolate areas are also presently isolated from current and forecast anthropogenic impacts, making a strong case for their inclusion in Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs).

Such planning is well within the grasp of modern conservation science. Given rapidly expanding and diversifying human activity in Antarctica along with the general absence of Antarctica’s wilderness and inviolate areas from its protected area system and of wilderness values from Environmental Impact Assessments, it is also urgent. The outcomes could provide the Parties to the Antarctic Treaty with the mechanism required to implement their commitments to the protection of the Antarctic environment.

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