Improving species‐based area protection in Antarctica.
36(4): e13885.Aug 2022
Area protection is a major mechanism deployed for environmental conservation in Antarctica. Yet, the Antarctic protected areas network is widely acknowledged as inadequate, in part because the criteria for area protection south of 60°S are not fully applied. The most poorly explored of these criteria is the type locality of species, which provides the primary legal means for Antarctic species-based area protection and a method for conserving species even if little is known about their habitat or distribution. The type locality criterion has not been systematically assessed since its incorporation into the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty in 1991, so the extent to which the criterion is being met or might be useful for area protection is largely unknown. To address the matter, we created and analyzed a comprehensive database of Antarctic type localities of terrestrial and lacustrine lichens, plants, and animals. We compiled the database via a literature search of key taxonomic and geographic terms and then analyzed the distance between type localities identifiable to a ≤ 25km2 resolution and current Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs) and human infrastructure. We used a distance-clustering approach for localities outside current ASPAs to determine candidate protected areas that could contain these unprotected localities. Of the 386 type localities analyzed, 108 were within or overlapped current ASPAs. Inclusion of the remaining 278 type localities in the ASPA network would require the designation of a further 105 protected areas. Twenty-four of these areas included human infrastructure disturbance. Given the slow rate of ASPA designation, growing pace of human impacts on the continent, and the management burden associated with ASPAs, we propose ways in which the type locality criterion might best be deployed. These include a comprehensive, systematic conservation planning approach and an alternative emphasis on the habitat of species, rather than on a single locality.