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Antarctic Environments Portal

Specially protected and managed areas in Antarctica (UPDATED)

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Information Summary

Version: 2.0

Published: 03/04/2014 GMT

Reviewed: 15/04/2019 GMT

Authors

Ewan McIvor (1), Kevin A. Hughes (2), Patricia Ortúzar (3), Polly Penhale (4), Aleks Terauds (1)

1 Australian Antarctic Division, Channel Highway, Kingston, Tasmania, 7050, Australia. Ewan.McIvor@aad.gov.au
2 British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB30ET, United Kingdom
3 Direccion Nacional del Antártico, Balcarce 290 Pisos 2 y 3, Buenos Aires, Argentina
4 Polar Programs, National Science Foundation, 2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314, United States

DOI: 10.18124/jwgc-aw03


Synopsis

Annex V to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (the Protocol) establishes a framework for designating Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs) and Antarctic Specially Managed Areas (ASMAs). These areas are intended to support the objective of protecting comprehensively the Antarctic environment. There are 72 ASPAs and 6 ASMAs currently. ASPAs are sites with outstanding environmental, scientific, historic, aesthetic or wilderness values, any combination of those values, or ongoing or planned scientific research that warrant additional protection due to these values or the risks of human impacts on these values. Important work has been done to underpin the development of a representative series of ASPAs, including spatial analyses to identify distinct ‘Environmental Domains’ and ‘Antarctic Conservation Biogeographic Regions’. The Antarctic Treaty Parties have agreed that these spatial frameworks are useful references to guide the designation of ASPAs within a systematic environmental-geographic framework, and the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) has recognised the need for a more systematic approach to the development of the protected area system.


Summary

The historical isolation of the Antarctic continent has protected it, to a certain degree, from the potentially harmful effects of human activities. The commencement and increase of a human presence in the region has brought growing awareness of its scientific and environmental importance and placed pressure on scientific and environmental values.

These values benefit from the general protections afforded by the Antarctic Treaty and the Protocol. These instruments prohibit the use of nuclear weapons, the dumping of nuclear wastes, military action and mineral resource extraction. In addition, all proposed activities must undergo prior environmental impact assessment, there are strict protective measures for all native flora and fauna, and requirements for the management and removal of current and past wastes. Indeed, the Protocol designates the entire Antarctic Treaty area (the area south of 60 degrees South latitude) as a ‘natural reserve, devoted to peace and science’.

The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties have determined, nevertheless, that some areas of the Antarctic warrant additional protection due to the values they contain or the risks of human impacts on these values. Consequently, since 1964 there has been some form of Antarctic protected area system. The current protected area framework is established under Annex V to the Protocol (Area Protection and Management), which entered into force on 24 May 2002.

Annex V provides for the designation of areas within the Antarctic Treaty area, including marine areas, as an Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA). Entry to an ASPA is prohibited without a permit, and activities must be conducted in accordance with the Management Plan for the area.

ASPAs may be designated to protect outstanding environmental, scientific, historic, aesthetic or wilderness values, any combination of those values, or ongoing or planned scientific research. It is envisaged in Annex V that a series of ASPAs will be identified, within a ‘systematic environmental-geographical framework’ (SEGF) that includes:

a. areas kept inviolate from human interference so that future comparisons may be possible with localities that have been affected by human activities;
b. representative examples of major terrestrial, including glacial and aquatic, ecosystems and marine ecosystems;
c. areas with important or unusual assemblages of species, including major colonies of breeding native birds or mammals;
d. the type locality or only known habitat of any species;
e. areas of particular interest to ongoing or planned scientific research;
f. examples of outstanding geological, glaciological or geomorphological features;
g. areas of outstanding aesthetic and wilderness value;
h. sites or monuments of recognised historic value; and
i. such other areas as may be appropriate to protect environmental, scientific, historic, aesthetic or wilderness values, any combination of those values, or ongoing or planned scientific research.

Annex V also provides that any area, including any marine area, where activities are being conducted or may in the future be conducted, may be designated as an Antarctic Specially Managed Area (ASMA) to assist in the planning and co-ordination of activities, avoid possible conflicts, improve co-operation between Parties or minimize environmental impacts. ASMAs may include areas where activities pose risks of mutual interference or cumulative environmental impacts, and sites or monuments of recognised historic value. ASMAs can include ASPAs within their area.

Among other functions, the CEP is responsible for providing advice to the Antarctic Treaty Parties on the operation and further elaboration of the Antarctic protected area system. Since its first meeting in 1998, the CEP has devoted a significant part of its discussions to the subject of area protection and management in Antarctica. The CEP has adopted materials to guide the designation, management and inspection of ASPAs and ASMAs, including:

There are currently 72 ASPAs and 6 ASMAs. Information about these areas, including links to their Management Plans, is available from the Antarctic Protected Areas Database, maintained by the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat.

The ASPAs range in size from a historic hut covering an area of only a few tens of square meters (ASPA 158 Hut Point) up to a wholly marine area of approximately 916 km2 (ASPA 152 Western Bransfield Strait), andin total cover an area of approximately 750 km2. On average the ASMAs are larger, ranging in size from approximately 159 km2 (ASMA 4 Deception Island) to approximately 26,000 km2 and covering a total area of approximately 48,600 km2.

Most of the ASPAs occur in coastal locations in proximity to areas of human activity (e.g. Antarctic research stations), and seek to promote the conservation of environmental values and / or the conduct of scientific studies without interference from other human activities. With reference to the abovementioned provisions for designating ASPAs within a systematic environmental-geographic framework, by far the most ASPAs primarily address criterion c - areas with important or unusual assemblages of species, including major colonies of breeding native birds or mammals.

The CEP has expressed regularly its desire to move towards a more systematic approach to the further development of the Antarctic protected area system. The 2008 ATCM agreed that the Environmental Domains Analysis for the Antarctic Continent (EDA) (1; See Figure 1) should be used consistently and in conjunction with other tools agreed within the Antarctic Treaty System as a dynamic model for the identification of areas that could be designated as ASPAs within the systematic environmental-geographical framework. The EDA classifies the Antarctic continent into 21 distinctive regions, based on eight spatially explicit data layers that describe abiotic aspects of the Antarctic environment.

Specially protected Fig 1 ENG

Figure 1. Map of Antarctica showing the 21 Environmental Domains. Source: F. Morgan, G. Barker, C. Briggs, R. Price, H. Keys, "Environmental Domains of Antarctica version 2.0 Final Report," (Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research New Zealand Ltd. Available at: http://www.ats.aq/devEM/documents/001718_np.pdf, 2007).

The ATCM has agreed, similarly, that the Antarctic Conservation Biogeographic Regions (ACBRs) (2, 3; See Figure 2) should be used, alongside the EDA and other agreed tools, as a dynamic model for the identification of areas that could be designated as ASPAs. The 2017 ATCM endorsed the most recent version of the ACBRs, which are 16 biologically distinct ice-free regions, encompassing all ice-free ground within the Antarctic Treaty area, classified using the best available data on the distribution of biodiversity.

Specially protected Fig 2 ENG

Figure 2. Map of Antarctica showing the 16 Antarctic Conservation Biogeographic Regions. Source: Terauds, A. & Lee, J.R. (2016) Antarctic biogeography revisited: updating the Antarctic Conservation Biogeographic Regions, Diversity and Distributions, 22, 836–840, DOI:10.1111/ddi.12453.


Key Events

1959:

The third meeting of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) notes that protection of representative areas of Antarctica’s natural environments is needed urgently.

1964:

ATCM III adopts the Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora (Recommendation III-VIII). The preamble to the Agreed Measures declares the Antarctic Treaty area to be a ‘Special Conservation Area’. Article VIII of the Agreed Measures provides for the designation of sites of ‘outstanding scientific interest’ as Specially Protected Areas (SPAs), to accord them ‘special protection … in order to preserve their unique natural ecological system’.

1966: 

Designation of Specially Protected Areas commences with 15 SPAs approved through Recommendation ATCM IV-1 to IV-15.

1972:

ATCM VII adopts Recommendation VII-2, suggesting that the series of SPAs should include ‘representative examples of the major Antarctic land and freshwater ecological systems’. Concern is also raised that SPAs only afford protection to biological values and had been misused to protect associated scientific investigations.

1975:

ATCM VIII adopts Recommendation VIII-3, which establishes a new protected area category, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). While SPAs had been largely utilised to protect biological values, SSSIs are to be sites of ‘exceptional scientific interest’ requiring ‘long-term protection from harmful interference’.

1985:

ATCM XIII adopts Recommendation XIII-5, which invites SCAR to offer scientific advice on the system of protected areas in the Antarctic, including SSSIs and SPAs and the question of a possible additional category of area under a different form of protection.

1987:

ATCM XIV discusses the need to extend the scope of area protection to include physical and landscape values.

1989:

ATCM XV adopts Recommendation XV-8, requiring Management Plans for all existing and future SPAs (as detailed in Recommendation XV-9).

ATCM XV also adopts Recommendation XV-10, which provides for areas of ‘outstanding geological, glaciological, geomorphological, aesthetic, scenic, or wilderness value’ to be designated as Specially Reserved Areas (SRAs), and calls upon Parties to review the geographical features of Antarctica and include representative examples of these values in the series of SRAs.

ATCM XV further adopts Recommendation XV-11, which provides for the designation of Multiple-use Planning Areas (MPAs) to ‘assist in coordinating human activities in those areas where such activities pose identified risks of mutual or cumulative environmental impacts’.

1991:

Special Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (SATCM) XI adopts the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. Article 2 of the Protocol designates the Antarctic Treaty area as a ‘natural reserve, devoted to peace and science’. The CEP is tasked with providing advice and formulating recommendations to the Parties on ‘the operation and further elaboration of the Antarctic protected area system’ (Article 12.1 (g)). Discussions are also held about the development of an Annex to the Protocol to incorporate the area protection provisions of the Agreed Measures, but the Annex is not completed during the meeting.

These discussions on a further annex to the Protocol are continued and concluded at ATCM XVI, which adopts Annex V: Area Protection and Management, as an attachment to Recommendation XVI-10. Recognising that this new annex would effectively supersede Recommendations XV-10 and XV-11, the ATCM agrees that Parties should require, voluntarily, compliance with management plans submitted to the meeting by the United States for a Specially Reserved Area at North Side of Dufek Massif and a Multiple-Use Planning Area at Southwest Anvers Island and Vicinity.

1992:

SCAR and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) convene a workshop entitled ‘Developing the Antarctic Protected Area System’ in Cambridge, United Kingdom. The workshop report is presented to ATCM XVII as ATCM XVII/WP4.

1998:

The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty enters into force on 14 January 1998. Annex V to the Protocol, on Area Protection and Management, is subject to a separate approval process and does not yet enter into force.

A Workshop on Protected Areas is held in Tromsø, Norway. A summary of the workshop report is presented to CEP I as ATCM XXII/WP26.

The CEP acknowledges that Antarctic protected areas should be examined in the wider context of the protection given to Antarctica by the Protocol and Annexes I - IV, as well as the protection provided by Annex V. It notes that particular attention needs to be given to protecting areas where there are fauna, flora or other values at high risk of being damaged by human activities, and that there are gaps in the system with some protected area categories as set out in Article 3(2) of Annex V being very poorly represented or not represented at all.

ATCM XXII adopts Resolution 1 (1998), which identifies the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties responsible for the revision and preparation, in Annex V format, of Management Plans for protected areas.

The meeting also adopts Resolution 2 (1998), which recommends that those engaged in the preparation or revision of Management Plans use the Guide to the Preparation of Management Plans for Antarctic Specially Protected Areas.

ATCM XXII adopts Decision 4 (1998) Marine Protected Areas, containing a procedure for the referral to CCAMLR, as appropriate, of draft Management Plans for ASPAs and ASMAs that contain marine areas.

1999:

A Second Antarctic Protected Areas Workshop is held in Peru. A summary of the workshop report is submitted to CEP II as ATCMXXIII/WP37.

2000:

CEP III adopts Guidelines for CEP Consideration of New and Revised Draft Management Plans for Protected Areas.

SATCM XII adopts Resolution 1 (2000), recommending that the Guidelines for implementation of the Framework for Protected Areas set forth in Article 3, Annex V of the Environmental Protocol be used by those engaged in the development of proposals for specially protected areas in Antarctica.

2002:

Annex V to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty: Area Protection and Management enters into force on 24 May.

ATCM XXXV adopts Decision 1 (2002), which presents a system for naming and renumbering existing SPAs and SSSIs as Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs), and for numbering new ASPAs. The Meeting also adopted Resolution 2 (2002), recalling Resolution 1 (1998) and calling on Parties to present revised Management Plans in Annex V format by CEP VII (2004).

2003:

CEP VI adopts revised Guidelines for CEP Consideration of New and Revised ASPA and ASMA Management Plans.

2005:

ATCM XXVIII adopts Decision 9 (2005), containing an updated procedure for the referral to CCAMLR, as appropriate, of draft Management Plans for ASPAs and ASMAs that contain marine areas.

2007:

Morgan et al. (1) publish the Environmental Domains of Antarctica Version 2.0 Final Report. The Environmental Domains Analysis (EDA) is a classification of the Antarctic continent into 21 distinctive regions, based on eight spatially explicit data layers that describe abiotic aspects of the Antarctic environment (e.g. air temperature, wind speed, solar radiation, slope, land cover and geology).

CEP X agrees to establish a Trial Informal Group to examine draft new and revised Management Plans referred by the CEP for intersessional review, and provide advice to the proponent and CEP.

2008:

ATCM XXXI adopts Resolution 1 (2008), containing the Guide to the Presentation of Working Papers Containing Proposals for Antarctic Specially Protected Areas, Antarctic Specially Managed Areas or Historic Sites and Monuments.

ATCM XXXI also adopts Resolution 3 (2008), which recommends that the Environmental Domains Analysis for the Antarctic Continent be used ‘consistently and in conjunction with other tools agreed within the Antarctic Treaty System as a dynamic model for the identification of areas that could be designated as Antarctic Specially Protected Areas within the systematic environmental-geographical framework referred to in Article 3(2) of Annex V of the Protocol’.

ATCM XXXI further adopts Resolution 4 (2008), encouraging the use of the Checklist to assist in the inspection of Antarctic Specially Protected Areas and Antarctic Specially Managed Areas.

ATCM XXXI supports the CEP’s proposal to establish a Subsidiary Group on Management Plans (SGMP) to examine draft new and revised Management Plans referred by the CEP for intersessional review, and provide advice to the proponent and CEP, and to provide advice to the CEP as necessary for the purpose of improving Management Plans and the process for their intersessional review.

CEP XI adopts updated Guidelines for CEP Consideration of New and Revised draft ASPA and ASMA Management Plans.

The CEP adopts a five-year work plan which identifies ‘Processing new and revised protected / managed area Management Plans’ as a priority 1 issue and ‘Overview of the protected areas system / SEGF’ as a priority 3 issue.

2010:

At CEP XIII, SCAR presents ATCM XXXIII/WP3, which provides a preliminary assessment of the extent to which the EDA corresponds with patterns in spatially explicit biodiversity data available in the SCAR Biodiversity Database. SCAR concludes that, at a coarse resolution, the ice-free Environmental Domains identified in the EDA do reflect differences between biotic assemblages, and can be considered a useful first order assessment of likely systematic variation in biodiversity. It also concludes that it would be necessary to supplement the EDA with biodiversity data to enable meaningful analyses at the finer spatial scales typically used for protected area design

2011:

A CEP Workshop on Marine and Terrestrial Antarctic Specially Managed Areas is held in Montevideo, Uruguay. The workshop report is submitted to CEP XIV in ATCM XXXIV/WP61rev1 and ATCM XXXIV/IP136.

Following the CEP's advice, the ATCM XXXIV adopts Resolution 2 (2011), containing a Revised Guide to the Preparation of Management Plans for Antarctic Specially Protected Areas.

2012:

Terauds et al. publish (2) a paper entitled Conservation biogeography of the Antarctic, which identifies 15 biologically distinct major ice-free Antarctic Conservation Biogeographic Regions (ACBRs), and suggest that these areas should be fully represented in a terrestrial Antarctic protected area system to capture the continent’s biodiversity.

Following the CEP's advice, ATCM XXXV adopts Resolution 6 (2012), recommending that the Antarctic Conservation Biogeographic Regions be used ‘in conjunction with the Environmental Domains Analysis and other tools agreed within the Antarctic Treaty system to support activities relevant to the interests of the Parties, including as a dynamic model for the identification of areas that could be designated as Antarctic Specially Protected Areas within the systematic environmental-geographic framework referred to in Article 3(2) of Annex V to the Environmental Protocol.’

2015:

Following the CEP’s advice, ATCM XXXIX adopts Resolution 5 (2015), requesting the CEP to provide an update to the ATCM on the extent to which Important Birds Areas (IBAs) identified in a report on Important Bird Areas in Antarctica are, or should be, represented within the series of ASPAs, in particular those areas that might qualify as ‘major colonies of breeding native birds’.

CEP XVIII adopts Guidelines: A Prior Assessment process for the designation of ASPAs and ASMAs, which are intended to: engage all Parties in the process of designating new sites; recognise that all ASPAs and ASMAs are internationally designated; aiding Members in preparing management plans by allowing for feedback and comments from other Members earlier in the process; and facilitating consideration of the further systematic development of the protected area system in accordance with Article 3 of Annex V to the Protocol, and with consideration of climate change implications.

2016:

Terauds and Lee publish (3) a paper entitled Antarctic biogeography revisited: updating the Antarctic Conservation Biogeographic Regions, which reports on work to revise the ACBRs to reflect the most current representation of Antarctic ice-free areas (the SCAR Antarctic Digital Database rock outcrop layer, Version 7). The new analyses, which draw on the updated ice-free area data and compared community structure and composition across all ACBRs, identify an additional (16th) distinct ACBR in the Prince Charles Mountains. This updated version of the ACBRs (ACBRs Version 2) covers all ice-free areas of Antarctica.

Following the CEP’s advice, ATCM XXIX adopts Resolution 5 (2016) Revised Guide to the presentation of Working Papers containing proposals for Antarctic Specially Protected Areas, Antarctic Specially Managed Areas or Historic Sites and Monuments, revising Template A Cover sheet for a Working Paper on an ASPA or ASMA to include questions relating to ACBRs and IBAs.

2017:

Following the CEP's advice, ATCM XL adopts Resolution 1 (2017), recommending that the Guidance for Assessing an Area for a Potential Antarctic Specially Managed Area Designation be used by those who will engage in assessing an area for potential designation as an ASMA, and that the Guide to the Preparation of Management Plans for Antarctic Specially Managed Areas be used by those engaged in the preparation or revision of Management Plans for ASMAs.

Following the CEP's advice, ATCM XL adopts Resolution 3 (2017), recommending that the revised Antarctic Conservation Biogeographic Regions be used ‘in conjunction with the Environmental Domains Analysis and other tools agreed within the Antarctic Treaty system to support activities relevant to the interests of the Parties, including as a dynamic model for the identification of areas that could be designated as Antarctic Specially Protected Areas within the systematic environmental-geographic framework referred to in Article 3(2) of Annex V to the Environmental Protocol.’

CEP XX adopts a revision to the Guidelines: A prior assessment process for the designation of ASPAs and ASMAs, to incorporate a non-mandatory ASPA prior assessment template intended to assist proponents to provide the information detailed in the Guidelines for potential ASPAs.