Antarctica and Southern Oceans: Biodiversity Hotspots Under Threat

Antarctica and Southern Oceans: Biodiversity Hotspots Under Threat

Question: Despite being isolated from the rest of the globe, the biodiversity outlook for Antarctica and Southern Ocean is no better than the others. Elaborate.

• Antarctica and Southern oceans are teeming with life yet protection measures are weak

• Continent faces threats from fishing, tourism, science programs according to a report by scientists

• Biodiversity outlook for this region is no better than the rest of the world despite its relative isolation

• Antarctic marine system has more than 8,000 different species

• 50 to 90 percent of the species are endemic to the region including sea spiders, isopods and wandering albatross

• On the land, there is a massive diversity of different types of virus and extremely well developed microbial community

• Antarctic was home to an amazing diversity of organisms

• This region is roughly the size of US and Mexico together

• It is not a single homogenous area and has 15 distinct biogeographic zones

• This includes the 4000 m high Trans-Antarctic mountains and the geothermal heated volcanoes of NE Antarctic Peninsula which is an important habitat for wildlife in icy, glacial conditions

• ATVs hare being driven through moss beds, science stations are dumping their sewage here and there is under-reporting of oil spills

• The 1991 protocol on environment protection has stated Antarctica should only be used for scientific and peaceful purposes

• This has been interpreted as allowing any activity other than military or nuclear power plant

• This is one of the last relatively intact marine ecosystems across the globe

Facts and Stats

• 1.5% of the land and less than 10% of the oceans across the Antarctica fall under special protection

• Ross Sea sometimes called the last ocean on account of its untouched condition has been proposed to designate as a marine reserve

• Annual bluegrass is outcompeting the indigenous flowering plants on the continent namely the Antarctic Hair Grass and the Antarctic Pearlwort

• Scientists have said protected areas of Antarctic should match the biodiversity targets of 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of marine and coastal areas protected by the year 2020

• Coordinated investigations into drivers of biodiversity loss include ocean acidification, extinction risk assessment and gender diversity studies

• Antarctic is also home to over 200 species of lichen and moss clinging to coastlines and patches of rocks
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