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Www.environment.gov.au/soe SoE 2011 – Antarctic chapter overview This presentation is one of a series of Australia State of the Environment 2011 (SoE 2011)

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Presentation on theme: "Www.environment.gov.au/soe SoE 2011 – Antarctic chapter overview This presentation is one of a series of Australia State of the Environment 2011 (SoE 2011)"— Presentation transcript:

1 SoE 2011 – Antarctic chapter overview This presentation is one of a series of Australia State of the Environment 2011 (SoE 2011) report presentations given by SoE Committee members and departmental staff following the release of the SoE 2011 report. This material was developed as part of an oral presentation. The full report should be referred to for understanding the context of this information. For more information please refer to: Or contact the SoE team via

2 New cover page Presentation – SoE 2011 Antarctic chapter overview Photo: Aerial view of the Pilbara, by Andrew Griffiths, Lensaloft

3 State of the Environment reporting A report on the Australian environment must be tabled in Parliament every five years No current regulations regarding scope, content or process All reports so far written by independent committees

4 Purpose of SoE 2011 Provide relevant and useful information on environmental issues to the public and decision- makers... … to raise awareness and support more informed environmental management decisions … … leading to more sustainable use and effective conservation of environmental assets.

5 State of the Environment 2011 Committee Chair Tom Hatton (Director, CSIRO Water for a Healthy Country) Members Steven Cork (research ecologist and futurist) Peter Harper (Deputy Australian Statistician) Rob Joy (School of Global Studies, Social Science & Planning, RMIT) Peter Kanowski (Fenner School of Environment & Society, ANU) Richard Mackay (heritage specialist, Godden Mackay Logan) Neil McKenzie (Chief, CSIRO Land and Water) Trevor Ward (marine and fisheries ecologist) Barbara Wienecke – ex officio (Australian Antarctic Division, DSEWPaC)

6 What’s new in 2011? Improved relevance to decision makers More detailed information Discussion of the major drivers of change Wide range of credible resources used in the analyses Report-card style assessments of condition, pressures and management effectiveness Discussions of current resilience and future risks Outlooks

7 Quality and credibility Independence – written by an independent committee with relevant expertise, tasked with advocating for ‘accurate, robust and meaningful environmental reporting and identification of policy issues, but not for any particular policy position’ Authors sought best available evidence from credible sources Extensive consultation Workshops to determine consensus in expert opinion where evidence low Transparency about quality of evidence and level of consensus Peer reviewed (47+ reviewers of chapters and supplementary materials)

8 SoE 2011 Products Full report – hard copy and online Summary with 17 headlines Nine theme chapters – each with key findings Report cards In-Brief – hard copy and online 50 page summary of full report Additional online materials Commissioned reports Workshop reports Additional tables and figures Peer review information

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11 Assessment summaries in the report

12 Drivers chapter – context for rest of SoE How are a changing climate, population growth and economic growth creating pressures on our environment?

13 SoE 2011 Headlines 17 headlines in summary chapter give a high level overview of the big issues

14 Key Findings (in theme chapters) ‘key findings’ give an overview of more specific conclusions for each theme

15 What is the general state of the environment? Much of Australia is in good condition shape or improving  Wind erosion has decreased  Some major threats to vegetation cover are lessening  Water consumption has fallen considerably in recent years  Many urban air pollutants are on the decline  Use of public transport is on the rise Other parts are in poor condition or deteriorating  The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is losing billions of tonnes of ice a year  Soil acidification and pests and weeds are affecting large areas of the continent  Our natural and cultural heritage continues to be threatened

16 Drivers of environmental change The principal drivers of pressures on Australia’s environment—and its future condition—are climate variability and change, population growth and economic growth It is likely that we are already seeing the effects of climate change in Australia The Australian economy is projected to grow by 2.7% per year until 2050 Under the base scenario, Australia’s population of 22.2 million people in 2010 is projected to grow to 35.9 million by 2050 We have opportunities to decouple population and economic growth from pressure on our environment

17 Persistent pressures on our environment Past decisions and practices have left ongoing impacts on our environment  Introduction of feral animals and weeds  Land clearing  Pollution  Unsustainable water resource management  Intense harvest of fish stocks  Lack of integrated and supported management Our changing climate, and growing population and economy, are now confronting us with new challenges

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19 About the Antarctic environment chapter 101 pages 30 figures and tables 15 assessment tables 8 case studies 234 references Photo: Doug Thost

20 Key findings The ozone hole has largely protected East Antarctica from global warming The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is losing ice at its coastal fringes Major regional changes are occurring in Antarctic sea ice coverage The Southern Ocean is getting warmer Increased acidification of the Southern Ocean can affect the base of Antarctic food webs

21 Key findings Antarctic vertebrates are highly specialised; capacity to adapt to climate change is unknown The terrestrial ecosystems are changing The pressure of human activities is increasing The natural heritage of Macquarie Island has suffered under the impact of introduced species, but a large-scale eradication program is underway

22 Introduction Antarctica covers an area of about 13.8 million km 2, with diverse ecosystems and habitats, and a unique assemblage of species It is the earth’s coldest, highest, windiest, and driest continent Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are key drivers of Earth’s oceanic and atmospheric systems The Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT) makes up 42% of the continent

23 Introduction The Antarctic Treaty and Antarctic Treaty System provide the framework for governance of the Antarctic region The AAT is administered by the Australian Antarctic Division of DSEWPaC Australia maintains a permanent presence with 3 continental stations, a station at Macquarie Island and temporary field stations The Antarctic chapter focuses on the AAT, incl. the subantarctic islands and Southern Ocean

24 State and trends Antarctica is showing clear signs of climate change, esp. on the Antarctic Peninsula, where temperatures have risen by 5 o C over the last 50 years. Slower rate of change in East Antarctica. Effects include:  Continental ice sheet is getting smaller  Reduced duration of annual sea ice  Increased ocean acidification Photo: Doug Thost

25 State and trends – Continental ice sheet is getting smaller Ice mass changes for entire Antarctic ice sheet ( )

26 State and trends – reduced duration of annual sea ice Trend map of Antarctic annual sea ice duration (days/year) Yellow = basically unchanged Green = up to 3 days less Purple = up to 6 days less

27 State and trends – increased ocean acidification Global monthly mean CO 2 concentration ( )

28 State and trends – other effects of climate change Incursions of alien species into the region, e.g. King crab (Paralomis elongata), and competition with natives Changes in veg. communities, e.g. Antarctic bryophytes: well-developed communitymoribund bryophytes Photo: Sharon Robinson Photo:Jane Wasley

29 State and trends - vertebrates Antarctic species are well adapted to Antarctic conditions; capacity to adapt to climate change is unknown Subantarctic islands have a legacy of introduced species with high impact, e.g. rabbits on Macquarie Island Some populations of seals and penguins that were slaughtered in the late 19 th /early 20 th centuries have recovered Greatest threat to seabirds is probably IUU fishing Most whale species visiting the Southern Ocean are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Photo: Nick Rains

30 State and trends – natural heritage Australia’s two subantarctic island groups (Heard/McDonald Islands, and Macquarie Island) were added to the World Heritage List in 1997, and the National Heritage List in 2007 Australia also manages 11 Antarctic Specially Protected Areas, and 2 Antarctic Specially Managed Areas  all are currently assessed as being in ‘Good’ condition, except for Macquarie Island, which is ‘Poor’ but improving

31 State and trends – historic heritage assessment summary

32 Pressures affecting the Antarctic environment Antarctica is changing at an increasing rate due to global warming, esp. West Antarctica and Antarctic Peninsula, where temperatures have risen by 5 o C over the last 50 years Slower change in East Antarctica, though rate expected to increase Resulting increases in temperature and ocean acidification affecting ecosystems; capacity to adapt unknown In certain regions, snow fall is being replaced by rain, altering ecosystems Extreme weather events likely to increase in frequency and perhaps intensity as planet warms

33 Pressures affecting the Antarctic environment Human activities in closer proximity:  ca people visited continent in  ca people work on continent each year, on existing research bases (4 bases are Australian)  New research stations being built  Tourism growing annually  Visits lead to:— erosion, disturbance of habitats and wildlife — pollution, introductions of invasive species  Commercial fishing esp. of krill  IUU fishing a significant problem  Pollution elsewhere affects Antarctica

34 Pressures affecting the Antarctic environment Historic heritage – assessment summary

35 “The Antarctic increasingly will serve as a barometer of change and an indicator of human impact elsewhere in the globe” Tony Press, Antarctica and the future, in The Antarctic: past, present and future, Julia Jabour-Green and Marcus Haward eds, 2001 An iceberg and new sea ice, Antarctica Photo by Doug Thost

36 Management effectiveness The main activities in Antarctica are: ­ research & conservation ­ infrastructure ­ commercial tourism & fisheries ­ other activities e.g. private expeditions Management is regulated through the Antarctic Treaty and CCAMLR (the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources). The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) administers Australia’s Antarctic program. Antarctic research in Australia provides a foundation for management activities Photo: Doug Thost

37 Some of the research..... Photo © Tony Worby, courtesy Australian Antarctic Division

38 Management effectiveness Achievements by Australia include:  participation in international forums of the Antarctic Treaty System  development of strategy for Antarctica’s Future Environmental Challenges  reviews and environmental assessments of research facilities of other countries  a leading role in discussions to improve conservation of Antarctic marine living resources (as part of CCAMLR) ­ e.g. reducing IUU fishing, and the pursuit of sustainable fishing practices that minimise seabird bycatch……

39 Management effectiveness – case study Commercial longline fishing operations killed tens of 1000s of sea birds every year Since 2002, ca white-chinned petrels killed on longlines set in the southern Indian Ocean Birds are attracted by the bait, become hooked, and drown Scientists, policy makers and industry worked together, developing heavier, integrated weight longlines that sink much faster, greatly reducing seabird mortality Mortality of white-chinned petrels down 95% Photo: Simon Bennet

40 Management effectiveness – case study Mortality of birds in a study (Robertson et al. 2006)

41 Management effectiveness – assessment summary This summarises and assesses:  understanding of the issue(s)  planning  inputs  processes, and  outputs and outcomes World Heritage and protected areas - assessed as ‘Effective’ or ‘Very effective’, all with a trend Photo by Graham Robertson

42 Management effectiveness – assessment summary Land use and management  Effective, most are Adaptation to climate variability and change  Effective or Partially effective, all are Pests and invasive species management  Effective or Very effective, most are

43 Resilience Organisms and ecosystems in Antarctica have evolved to cope with severe natural conditions However, their level of adaptability to human-induced change or resilience is complex and difficult to measure Therefore, difficult to predict how future climate change will impact Antarctic ecosystems and species (limited information) Several components are changing rapidly (e.g. temperature, acidification), and there is limited information on: ­ possible interactions of these components ­ whether these changes are overwhelming the adaptive capacity of biological and physical systems

44 Risks Key risks to the Antarctic environment are due to human activities, incl. global population, economic pressures, and the effects of climate change While management can mitigate many of the population/economic impacts, climate change will be the main and uncontrollable driver of change Antarctic expeditioner (Greg Hodge) framed by a crevasse Photo: Doug Thost

45 Current and emerging risks – assessment summary

46 Almost certain Current and emerging risks – assessment summary Catastrophic

47 Current and emerging risks – assessment summary Almost certainCatastrophic

48 Current and emerging risks – assessment summary Almost certainCatastrophic LikelyCatastrophic

49 Outlook for the Antarctic environment At present, Antarctica is still in relatively good condition However, the existing pressures on the continent and Southern Ocean will increase Climate change processes will likely alter the physical Antarctic environment in our lifetime; species must adapt or face extinction With so many risks, climate change is a topic of intense ongoing scientific research and debate, but there are still many data deficiencies and uncertainties

50 Other SoE 2011 content related to the Antarctic environment Atmosphere – e.g. ozone layer, greenhouse gases Marine environment – e.g. currents, marine jurisdictions

51 Intentions and impacts of SoE Based on available information and expert opinion drawn from sources that are referenced in the report Was designed to raise awareness and assist decision-makers Highlights current issues that will require management responses to influence projected trends Provides critical information, but can support change only if decision-makers consider and use it

52 Photo: Aerial view of the Pilbara, by Andrew Griffiths, Lensaloft For more information To order copies phone: or read it online:


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