This theme looks at the global importance and evolving state of the Antarctic environment, the ongoing changes to marine and terrestrial ecosystems resulting from human activity, and the significance of climate change in the region.
The Australian Antarctic Territory was included as a separate theme for the first time in SoE 2006. In SoE 1996 and SoE 2001 information about the condition of these external territories was integrated into the other themes.
[This] chapter presents information on matters that affect the Antarctic environment and that describe the current state of the environment. The focus is on the Australian Antarctic Territory, because this is where Australia’s activities are centred. Also discussed are Australia’s subantarctic island groups – Macquarie Island, and Heard Island and McDonald Islands – and the Southern Ocean. (SoE 2011, 7 Antarctic Environment - 1.5 In this chapter)
- 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.
- Antarctic vertebrates are highly specialised to survive in the Antarctic. Whether they can adapt to new conditions due to climate change is currently unknown.
- The pressure of human activities on Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is increasing.
- The terrestrial ecosystems are changing, especially where snow fall is replaced by rain.
- The natural heritage of Macquarie Island has suffered under the impact of introduced species, but a large-scale eradication program is under way.
For more details see SoE 2011 - Antarctic environment: Key findings
- Antarctica plays a key role in regulating the world’s weather, climate and oceanic processes. Antarctica serves as an early warning system for the rest of the world.
- No significant changes are reported in overall Antarctic sea ice extent since the 1970s, although significant regional changes are evident, particularly around the western Antarctic Peninsula.
- The ecosystems of the Southern Ocean have been subjected to considerable human-induced pressure for over 200 years.
- Tourist visits to Australian sub-Antarctic islands and the Australian Antarctic Territory are a small proportion of Antarctic tourism, with 100 tourists on four vessels visiting the site of Mawson’s Huts since 2002-03. However, the environment and heritage of Antarctica are very vulnerable to visitor pressure, and close monitoring is warranted.
- Historic heritage places and objects are subject to significant pressures from climatic conditions.
- Changes in the Antarctic environment are inevitable due to global factors such as climate change and atmospheric and oceanic pollutants.
For more details see SoE 2006 - Antarctic environment: Key points
- Australia State of the environment 2011: Chapter 7: Antarctic Environment
- Australia State of the Environment 2011: In Brief
- Australia State of the Environment 2006: Chapter 10. The Australian Antarctic Territory
- Australia State of the Environment 2006 AT A GLANCE
- Australian Antarctic Territory
- Data Reporting System - Theme: Australian Antarctic Territory
- Australia State of the Environment 2001
- Key Findings Brochure
- Inland Waters, Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report): The Antarctic territories and their lakes
- Land, Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report): Antarctica
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