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SCAR XXXII WP13: Report of the SCAR Standing Scientific Group on Life Sciences (SSG-LS)
XXXII SCAR Delegates Meeting
23-25 July 2012, Portland Oregon, USA

SCAR XXXII WP13: Report of the SCAR Standing Scientific Group on Life Sciences (SSG-LS)

Working Paper 13
Agenda Item: 5.2.2
Posted/Revised: July 21
Person Responsible: Conlan
Executive Summary

Title: SSG Life Sciences

Authors: Kathy Conlan

Introduction/ Background:

Executive Summary

SSG Life Sciences

Kathleen Conlan

Introduction/ Background:

Scientific Research Programme Proposals: Following approval by the Delegates, Don Cowan (SA) developed AntEco (State of the Antarctic Ecosystem) and Julian Gutt (GER) developed AnT-ERA (Antarctic Thresholds – Ecosystem Resilience and Adaptation) in consultation with the largest possible diversity of scientists.  In Jan. 2012 leaders of the five programme proposals met to maximize interconnections among the life, physical and geosciences.  The proposals were submitted in Apr. 2012 and positive reviews were received in June 2012. 

EG-Human Biology and Medicine has merged with its COMNAP counterpart and now has Draft membership, mission and science statements. It is currently researching and/or advising on: aliens in food, infectious diseases, telemedicine, Antarctica as a space analogue, Lyme Disease, vitamin D deficiency, a common summer medical standard and electronic health records.

EG-Continuous Plankton Recorder and the SCAR Southern Ocean CPR Survey now involves over a dozen countries and completes 45-50 tows/yr.  By the end of 2012, its database will comprise 36,000+ records, equalling 180,000 nautical miles of survey from nearly 650 tows.  A major finding this year was of a bloom of warm-water associated Noctiluca 242 km further into the Southern Ocean than previously known.  This dinoflagellate causes “red tide” and is a competitor of copepods, which are essential food for many top predators in the Southern Ocean.

EG-Birds and Marine Mammals has participated in the long-term effort of collecting and compiling data for several databases: The references database (3450 references concerning 102 SCAR species), the Synthesis of Antarctic Tracking Data (collaborating with CCAMLR and Birdlife International), the Penguiness Book database (outreach for the general public) and the Census of Antarctic Marine Life database (436 699 at-sea sightings comprising 244 866 bird sightings, 178 480 seal sightings and 13 353 cetacean sightings).  Products planned are a CCAMLR report on biodiversity of the d’Urville Sea (East Antarctica) and The Biogeographic Atlas of the Census of Antarctic Marine Life.

The Antarctic Biodiversity Information Facility is developing or expanding websites for identification guides, biogeographic information, online publishing and data sharing.  A new focus is on microbial data.   ANTABIF requires SCAR support to ensure sustainability.

Recommendations/Actions and Justification: 

  1. The SSG-LS recommends that the proposed SRP, State of the Antarctic Ecosystem (AntEco), that is crucial to SCAR and its biology community be adopted by the SCAR delegates for implementation. AntECO will be the next generation program for studying and understanding the biodiversity and evolution of Antarctic organisms, and will provide essential data and insights for establishing policies for management and conservation. AntECO and its complementary biological program AntERA are integral to the success of SCAR’s cross program approach.
  2. The SSG-LS recommends that the proposed SRP, Antarctic Thresholds - Ecosystem Resilience and Adaptation (AnT-ERA), that is crucial to SCAR and its biology community be adopted by the SCAR delegates for implementation. Ant-ERA will be the next generation program for characterizing the resistance and resilience of Antarctic organisms to ongoing and future climate change. This program will address key questions about the vulnerability of the Antarctic ecosystem to environmental perturbations on variety of temporal and spatial scales. AnT-ERA and its complementary biological program AntEco are integral to the success of SCAR’s cross program approach
  3. The SSG-LS recommends that the delegates approve the nomination of Dr. Anne Hicks of the United Kingdom as the SCAR representative to the International Union of Circumpolar Health (IUCH). She will replace, with thanks, Dr. Giichiro Ohno of Japan.
  4. Because of the increasing need for high resolution imagery from Antarctica and the advances in technology that allow the use of such imagery to assist in the study of many physical and biological processes, the SSG-LS recommends the formation of a new cross action group to coordinate the development and adaptation of remote sensing methodology to promote new avenues of research.
  5. Regarding the rehabilitation of wildlife to the Antarctic, the SSG-LS recommends that SCAR remind the CEP/ATS and CCAMLR of the 1999 SCAR recommendation XXIV-3. The SSG-LS proposes that this recommendation be updated as follows: “SCAR discourages the practice of returning rehabilitated wildlife to the Antarctic environment to reduce the risk of transfer of disease to Antarctic ecosystems and to ensure the health of Antarctic wildlife populations”.
  6. The Cross SSGs Group, Advancing TecHnological and ENvironmental stewardship for subglacial exploration in Antarctica (ATHENA) has made great progress in their work and require addition time to complete their charge. The SSG-LS requests a one-year extension for the ATHENA expert group to finalize its work.
  7. To improve efficiency and engage a wider range of experts in pollution issues, the SSG-LS recommends the merger of the Action Group on Antarctic Fuel Spills (AGAFS) with the action group on Environmental Contamination in Antarctica (ECA).
  8. The achievements and crucial usefulness of Antarctic Biodiversity Information Facility (ANTABIF), which has superceded SCAR MarBin, has been clearly demonstrated. The SSG-LS asks that the Delegates recommendthat SCAR expresses its strong support to the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO), encouraging the integration of ANTABIF in the EU Lifewatch infrastructure, leading to its long-term sustainability; that SCAR urge the National Committees to endorse ANTABIF as the primary repository for Antarctic biodiversity data for their national Antarctic programs and that National Committees encourage their funding agencies to initiate and/or continue support for ANTABIF through SCAR, as an open access service to the community.  This will enable SCAR to continue to efficiently contribute primary data and expertise to subsidiary bodies and interested parties, enable ANTABIF to be the main biodiversity data provider to SOOS, and enable SCAR to be actively associated with emerging global initiatives.
  9. The SSG-LS recognizes the excellent efforts and accomplishments of the Action Group for Antarctic Biodiversity Information Facility (ANTABIF) and recommends the transition to an Expert Group on Antarctic Biodiversity Informatics (EG-ABI) (see Appendix).
  10. The SSG-LS expresses its appreciation to EBA and recommends the retirement of this program upon the approval of the two new SRPs.

Expected Benefits/Outcomes and Partnerships: 

AntEco and AnT-ERA deal with the most topical and societally important questions of this century and have close interconnectedness with SOOS and ICED as well as with the other proposed SCAR SRPs, especially AntClim21 and SERCE.  They will propel SCAR forward as the leading advisory organization on the Antarctic.  ANTABIF is the prime focal point for data from these LS programmes as well as from CAML, EG-CPR and EG-BAMM.  These groups are in turn essential for the success of SCAR and provide important advice and support to CEP and CCAMLR.  The JEG-HB&M is an important resource and advisor for both SCAR and COMNAP.  All groups mentor the next generation (within and outside APECS) and provide outreach, especially via ANTABIF and APECS.  They also provide insight, data and linkages to the Arctic Science community through IASC.

Budget Implications: 2013: 31K USD; 2014: 30K USD