New Antarctic science focus on climate change and environmental protection

7 May 2004

Better predicting of future global climate change and protecting the Antarctic environment will be the focus for Australia's new Antarctic science program. 

Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Australian Antarctic Division Dr Sharman Stone today launched the Science Strategy for Australia's Antarctic Science Program 2004/05 – 2008/09. 

Dr Stone said that Australians' quality of life in the 21st century would be determined by a range of factors that have global climate origins. 

"To meet those challenges there will be more multi-disciplinary science to underpin climate prediction, Southern Ocean sustainability, sea-level rise and biodiversity conservation," Dr Stone said. 

"Understanding the interactions between ice, ocean, atmosphere and climate will give us a clearer idea of the impacts on such critical issues as future greenhouse gas levels, sea-level rises, the variability and rate of climate change and the 'ozone hole'." 

Dr Stone said that during the next five years Antarctic scientific research would focus on four priority programs:

  • Ice, Oceans, Atmosphere and Climate
  • Southern Ocean Ecosystems,
  • Adaptation to Environmental Change
  • Impacts of Human Activities in Antarctica**

"Antarctica and the high Southern Ocean are of key importance to Australia because of their proximity to and influence on regional climate processes," Dr Stone said. 

"Because of this and the importance of the Southern Ocean to many of our marine industries, resources must be harvested sustainably. 

"Australia's Antarctic science program plays a significant role in advancing our understanding of how global processes arise, their interaction with the natural environment and their likely consequences." 

Dr Stone said that the Science Strategy forAustralia's Antarctic Science Program 2004/05 – 2008/09 demonstrated that the Australian Government took its responsibilities in Antarctica very seriously. 

"Australia's claim to 42% of Antarctica – almost six million square kilometres or roughly the size Australia without Queensland - means our responsibility and commitment to the continent are significant," Dr Stone said. 

"We have played and continue to play a leading role in scientific research and also in the development of policy to ensure that all human activities, whether they be research or tourism-based, have minimal impact on the environment." 

The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) leads Australia's Antarctic program. This includes overseeing research through its partnership with the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC), CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology and the University of Tasmania. As well, the AAD supports the research of many scientists, nation and world-wide. 

"Our Antarctic program embraces international collaboration, is a significant contributor to international treaties and research programs and is held in high regard on the world stage." 

Dr Stone said that the Science Strategy forAustralia's Antarctic Science Program 2004/05 – 2008/09 was designed to support the Australian Government's role in the Antarctic Treaty System and to enhance our influence on it. 

"Our commitment to Antarctica is that it be valued, protected and understood. This strategy continues that commitment."

**Further information on the Science Strategy:

  • Ice, Ocean, Atmosphere and Climate
    The goal of this program is to better understand and quantify the role of Antarctica and the high-latitude Southern Ocean and atmosphere in the global climate system.
  • Southern Ocean Ecosystems
    The Southern Ocean represents a vast international resource and national resource to Australia. Elevated productivity in part of the region such as in the sea-ice zone, supports a high biomass of certain species, and considerable biodiversity. Research here focuses on the species that are targets, or potential targets, for commercial fisheries and on the dependent and related species in the ecosystem.
  • Adaptation to Environment Change
    Antarctica offers an unparalleled natural laboratory for investigating the impacts of environmental changes on the structure and function of biological communities and species.
  • Impact of human activities in Antarctica
    Antarctica is no longer a pristine environment. At some locations, particularly around long-standing research stations, there is evidence of past human activity and, as Antarctic tourism increases, the pressures on the environment grow. Scientific research is required to provide advice in support of environmental management and remediation to minimise the impacts of human activities in Antarctica.

Australian Antarctic Division:
Australia is responsible for four stations: Casey, Davis and Mawson on the Antarctic continent (located in eastern Antarctica) and Macquarie Station in the subantarctic.