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Study: Efforts to conserve life in Antarctic not sufficient

Emperor penguins were found to be the most vulnerable.

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Beautiful landscape and scenery in Antarctica. Freezing
Penguins in the Antarctic. (Mix Tape via Shutterstock)

By Gwyn Wright via SWNS

Existing efforts to conserve the Antarctic are not sufficient to adequately protect its plants and animals, with the Emperor Penguin most at risk, warns a new study.

Scientists say 65 percent of species at the South Pole will see a fall in number by the end of the century unless action is stepped up.

They say implementing just 10 management strategies, which would cost around £19m ($23m USD), would benefit 83 percent of birds, mammals and plants on the cold continent.

Climate change is the biggest threat and efforts to limit warming are the most beneficial conservation strategy, the international research team noted.

A lone emperor penguin floating on an iceberg far from its colony in the Antarctic Peninsula. (Jasmine Lee via SWNS)

If current management strategies are maintained and global temperatures rise to more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels, 65 percent of Antarctic plants and animals will decline by 2100.

Emperor penguins were found to be the most vulnerable, followed by other sea birds and other soil nematode worms.

Regional management strategies could benefit up to 74 percent of plants and animals at an estimated cost of £1.58 billion ($1.92 billion US) over the next 83 years, equating to 0.004 percent of global GDP in 2019.

Reflections in the picturesque Lemaire Channel in the Antarctic Peninsula. (Jasmine Lee via SWNS)

Of these, minimizing the impact of human activities, improving the planning and management of new infrastructure projects and improving transport management were found to be the most effective.

For the study, they combined expert evidence and scientific data to better understand which species are vulnerable, identify the most cost-effective actions and evaluate threats and conservation strategies.

They asked 29 experts to define possible management strategies, estimate their cost and feasibility, and assess the potential benefit to different species between now and 2100.

Gentoo penguin walking at Yankee Harbour, Antarctic Peninsula. (Jasmine Lee via SWNS)

Lead study author Jasmine Rachael Lee from the University of Queensland in Australia, a Ph.D. student, said: “As Antarctica faces increasing pressure from climate change and human activities, a combination of regional and global conservation efforts is needed to preserve Antarctic biodiversity and ecosystem services for future generations.

“What this work shows is that climate change is the greatest threat to Antarctic species and what we need is global mitigation efforts to save them. This will not only help to secure their future but also our own.”

The findings were published in the journal PLoS Biology.

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