New significance for Antarctic biological collections and taxonomic research

Collections of preserved terrestrial and freshwater plants and animals, made since the earliest expeditions to the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic, have been the basis of our understanding of the biological composition of individual areas as well as of ecosystems in general. Systematic studies of these collections have elucidated patterns of evolution, dispersal and community structure in these southern polar biomes. During the modem era these collections continue to provide for taxonomic validation of pure and applied research in Antarctica. They are also becoming increasingly important as historical sources of information on oceanlatmosphere circulation changes, global "greenhouse" warming, ozone depletion and background levels of global pollution. Representative collections of Antarctic organisms and the databases of ecological information associated with them are also vital for environmental management initiatives and the formulation of conservation policy in Antarctica. In the face of increasing scientific, logistic and tourist activity in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic, protection of sensitive biota and ecosystems and control of human impacts are new imperatives recognized by the Antarctic Treaty under the Protocol on Environmental Protection. The work of the British Antarctic Survey's (BAS) Resource Centre is highlighted and a summary of information on the BAS plant collections and computer database is given. The value of electronic datalinking between institutions with Antarctic collections is assessed, and the potential of Geographical Information Systems as frameworks for Antarctic biological databases is also discussed.


Publication status:
Authors: Russell, Shaun, Smith, Ronald I.L.

1 January, 1993
Proceedings of the NIPR Symposium on Polar Biology / 6