According to a study published in December by Jasmine Rachael Lee of the University of Queensland in Australia and colleagues, existing conservation efforts are not doing enough to protect Antarctic ecosystems, and 65% of the continent’s plant and wildlife populations could decline by 210022 in open access journals PLOS Biology. Up to 84 percent of terrestrial birds, mammals and flora would benefit from implementing ten key threat management strategies at an annual cost of US$ 23 million.
To better understand which species are most vulnerable and identify the most cost-effective actions, the researchers combined expert assessments with scientific data to assess threats and conservation strategies in Antarctica. They asked 29 experts to identify possible management strategies, estimate their cost and feasibility, and assess their potential benefits to different species between now and 2100.
With climate change identified as the most serious threat to Antarctic biodiversity, influencing global policy to limit warming is the most beneficial conservation strategy. Under current management strategies and warming beyond 2°C, 65% of terrestrial flora and fauna will decline by 2100. Emperor penguins(groin worm) were identified as the most vulnerable, followed by other seabirds and soil nematodes. However, over the next 83 years, area management strategies will benefit up to 74% of the flora and fauna at an estimated cost of US$1.92 billion, equivalent to 0.004% of global GDP in 2019. The area management strategies considered to provide the greatest return on investment impacts were minimizing the impact of human activities, improving the planning and management of new infrastructure projects, and improving transportation management.
As Antarctica faces increasing pressure from climate change and human activities, a combination of regional and global conservation efforts is needed to preserve Antarctic biodiversity and ecosystem services for future generations, according to the authors.
Lee added: “This work shows that climate change is the greatest threat to Antarctic species and we need a global climate change mitigation effort to save them. This will help protect not only their future, but our own .”
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