Current logistical capacity is sufficient to deliver the implementation and management of a representative Antarctic protected area system
Antarctica’s terrestrial ecosystems are vulnerable to impacts resulting from climate change and local human activities. The Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) provides for the designation of protected areas through the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. Unsystematic use of agreed management tools, including Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs), has resulted in a protected area system lacking representation across the full range of Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems and Antarctic Conservation Biogeographic Regions (ACBRs). Systematic Conservation Planning (SCP) methods provide established mechanisms to fulfil ATS protected area designation goals. However, how would a continent-wide ASPA system be delivered should appropriate sites be identified using SCP or other methods? Although the rate of area protection has slowed recently, we show that newer Consultative Parties to the Antarctic Treaty are increasingly active as ASPA proponents and may have scope for further engagement with protected area management activities. Furthermore, all 16 ACBRs were found to be within the operational footprint of at least two Parties, indicating that this current logistical footprint could support the implementation and management of a continent-wide ASPA system. Effective management of a representative Antarctic protected areas system could be delivered through greater participation by those Parties with currently more limited protected area management responsibilities and greater use of remote-sensing technologies for protected area monitoring, where appropriate. Crucially, political will to implement an ASPA system identified through SCP approaches may be greater once a pragmatic means of delivery and effective management has been identified.
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