*Corresponding author, E-mail: email@example.com
The author is an independent biological consultant. The writing of this article was funded by the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (www.asoc.org).
The Ross Sea region is a biologically rich and dynamic environment and, although protected under various instruments of the Antarctic Treaty System, is threatened by a changing climate and increasing human activities locally and globally. This opinion editorial describes the importance of research and monitoring in the Ross Sea and identifies opportunities and barriers to enhance them.
Long-term quantitative monitoring is needed to provide information about current environmental conditions and the dynamics of environmental indicators. Monitoring is a key tool for managers to determine when a system is influenced by human impacts, and whether it is necessary to adapt their management approach. Where monitoring data are insufficient, managers must rely on qualitative judgment and precaution to assess environmental conditions.
The Ross Sea has experienced among the least human impacts of the world’s marine environment and is therefore an ideal laboratory for research into local and global impacts of human activities. Environmental research and monitoring in the Ross Sea have long legacies, beginning around the turn of the twentieth century when British expeditions made extensive biological collections. Research, driven in part by the rich fauna of the region, the location of scientific bases and the toothfish fishery, has contributed to the Ross Sea being one of the most intensively studied regions in the Southern Ocean.
The importance of Antarctic science was recently emphasized when the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) convened 75 scientists and policy-makers from 22 countries to agree on the priorities for Antarctic research. Many of the questions identified illustrated the major role science will play in mitigating environmental impacts and in providing the information required for policy development. Answering these questions will require: (1) access to all of Antarctica throughout the year, communications across and from the region, and the application of emerging technologies; (2) strengthened protection of the region; (3) sustained funding; and (4) growth in international cooperation.