Mapping conservation actions for Antarctic biodiversity facing rapid global change

British Antarctic Survey
Biodiversity, Evolution and Adaptation

Widely considered one of Earth’s last remaining wildernesses, an iconic and gold standard nature reserve, it is now clear that the Anthropocene is placing Antarctica and its ecosystems under immense pressure. Climate change, non-native species, pollution, and a growing human footprint threaten the region’s unique plants and wildlife. Yet we don’t how these threats are distributed across the landscape or whether these patterns will change as the earth warms and threats grow. This means we don’t know what we should be doing to conserve Antarctic species at local scales and whether we need to adapt these conservation actions through time. Identifying these actions is a crucial step on the path toward conserving Antarctic species for future generations.

Threat mapping is a recently developed innovative method to determine which places and species need management actions by combining spatial information on threats and species distributions to determine where vulnerable species overlap with the corresponding threat. You can then link appropriate actions to these threats – known as ‘action mapping’ - and prioritise actions in order of importance for different time points. As emerging tools in the conservation field, threat and action mapping are yet to be applied in Antarctica.

I will develop high resolution, spatially explicit maps of the threats facing terrestrial Antarctic biodiversity for three time points (current, 2050, 2100) by using recently available datasets and projecting them under future climate conditions. Further, I will use cutting-edge species distribution modelling techniques to project Antarctic species distributions into the future. By combining the threat maps and species distribution maps with cost-effective conservation strategies, I will determine where, why and which actions should be prioritised in Antarctica at local scales, now and into the future. The threat maps will provide a glimpse into the future Antarctic and help us to understand where and how to act to conserve the world’s last great wilderness before it is too late.