In the Antarctic, both animals and plants are living under extreme conditions. It is very easy to disturb breeding mammals and birds on land and also to damage plants that may have taken hundreds of years to grow. Under the Antarctic Treaty System, several international agreements are in place to protect Antarctic wildlife and vegetation.
In accordance with Annex II of the Environmental Protocol BAS prohibits its personnel from the following activities, except in accordance with a permit:
- taking, destroying or injuring Antarctic plants and animals;
- harmful interference, such as intentionally disturbing concentrations of seal and birds;
- the introduction of non-indigenous animals, plants and micro-organisms to Antarctica.
Most research stations in Antarctica are built on flat, ice-free areas near the coast, which can be important natural habitats for plants and wildlife and may be the sites of breeding colonies. The environmental impacts of BAS activities are monitored in a number of studies undertaken at the research stations. Information from this monitoring can be used to assess if there are significant impacts, and how they may be reduced.
Considerable effort is made by BAS to educate, train and encourage all personnel working in the Antarctic to care for, respect and protect the environment.