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A group of nearly 30 international scientists, including Victoria University’s Professor Peter Barrett, has set out the major conservation challenges facing the Antarctic region now, and for the next 50 years, in an article published in Science magazine.
Professor Barrett, an Antarctic expert and Deputy Director of Victoria University’s Centre for Climate Change, considers the article the most authoritative statement of concern to date from within the science community for the future of Antarctica and its ecosystems.
In particular, he draws attention to their conclusion that "The greatest challenge will be addressing threats that are global in scale, but with impacts that are being realised most significantly in the Antarctic."
The scientists have identified climate change impacts on marine systems and marine resource use, ocean acidification impacts, invasive alien species, pollution, habitat alteration, and regulatory challenges within the Treaty system as the major conservation challenges facing the region.
They have noted that while mineral and hydrocarbon extraction are prohibited by the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, increasing pressure may come for exploration as demands increase elsewhere and technologies improve.
Growing tourism and science activities may also mean the prospect of permanent human settlement. This, the scientists say, will mean substantial challenges to the conservation of the region through the Antarctic Treaty.