Expanding the Protected Area Network in Antarctica is Urgent and Readily Achievable

Bernard Coetzee, Peter Convey, Steven L Chown

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29 Citations (Scopus)


The terrestrial protected areas of Antarctica are generally small, unrepresentative of the continent's biodiversity, and at risk from a range of pressures. While some consider the whole Antarctic region as a protected area, we demonstrate that the evidence does not support this view. The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty recognizes that a systematic environmental-geographical framework provides a quantitative approach to inform expansion of the current Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) network. We review the progress thus far and challenges facing the establishment of protected areas in terrestrial Antarctica when adopting best practice approaches, an assessment that is lacking for the region to date. Encouragingly, because of the historical investment in Antarctic biodiversity science, and the existence and implementation of defined processes to identify and designate ASPAs, the opportunity exists to rapidly expand the current ASPA network. However, challenges remain. Foremost among these is the adoption of a comprehensive systematic conservation plan by stakeholders. We outline a strategy for the Antarctic Treaty Parties to provide the equitable, effective, transparent, and scientifically founded expansion of protected areas that Antarctica urgently requires. We also highlight where opportunities for colearning may lie in conservation planning and policy development in the Antarctic and other commons or commons-like areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)670-680
Number of pages11
JournalConservation Letters
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Antarctic Conservation Biogeographic Regions
  • Antarctic Specially Protected Areas
  • Evidence-based decision making
  • Systematic conservation planning

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