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Keywords:

  • Antarctic biodiversity;
  • biogeographical zones;
  • conservation planning;
  • ice-free Antarctica;
  • spatial ecology;
  • sub-Antarctic biogeography

Abstract

Aim

To present a synthesis of past biogeographic analyses and a new approach based on spatially explicit biodiversity information for the Antarctic region to identify biologically distinct areas in need of representation in a protected area network.

Location

Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic.

Methods

We reviewed and summarized published biogeographic studies of the Antarctic. We then developed a biogeographic classification for terrestrial conservation planning in Antarctica by combining the most comprehensive source of Antarctic biodiversity data available with three spatial frameworks: (1) a 200-km grid, (2) a set of areas based on physical parameters known as the environmental domains of Antarctica and (3) expert-defined bioregions. We used these frameworks, or combinations thereof, together with multivariate techniques to identify biologically distinct areas.

Results

Early studies of continental Antarctica typically described broad bioregions, with the Antarctic Peninsula usually identified as biologically distinct from continental Antarctica; later studies suggested a more complex biogeography. Increasing complexity also characterizes the sub-Antarctic and marine realms, with differences among studies often attributable to the focal taxa. Using the most comprehensive terrestrial data available and by combining the groups formed by the environmental domains and expert-defined bioregions, we were able to identify 15 biologically distinct, ice-free, Antarctic Conservation Biogeographic Regions (ACBRs), encompassing the continent and close lying islands.

Main conclusions

Ice-free terrestrial Antarctica comprises several distinct bioregions that are not fully represented in the current Antarctic Specially Protected Area network. Biosecurity measures between these ACBRs should also be developed to prevent biotic homogenization in the region.