Conflicting science requirements impact on rare moss conservation measures
The Antarctic Treaty recognizes the outstanding scientific values of the Antarctic environment through the designation of Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs) that have rigorous management plans specific to each site. Deception Island has the largest concentration of rare bryophyte species and communities in Antarctica, while also offering substantial opportunities for research in a range of scientific disciplines due to its volcanic nature. As a result, conflicts between research interests and conservation goals may arise. On the summit ridge of Caliente Hill severe trampling damage to the moss assemblages growing in association with localized geothermal activity was observed. The range of species affected included the entire known population of Schistidium deceptionense, an endemic moss known only from this site, as well as other very rare Antarctic mosses (Ditrichum ditrichoideum, Bryum orbiculatifolium, Bucklandiella subcrispipila, Pohlia wahlenbergii and Dicranella hookeri). A photomapping study was undertaken to characterize further the status of the site and monitor changes within it. Increased awareness, co-ordination of activities and a spatial zoning within the site could help mitigate damage from permitted activities. Nevertheless, prioritization of longer term conservation goals over short-term research interests may ultimately be necessary where local human impact cannot be managed by other means.
Authors: Pertierra, Luis R., Lara, Francisco, Benayas, Javier, Lewis-Smith, Ronald I., Hughes, Kevin A. ORCID record for Kevin A. Hughes