Antarctic biodiversity is under threat from climate change

Please login to favourite this article.

Antarctic scientists have been monitoring the volume of ice-free areas on the continent and it’s bad news for biodiversity.

Watch this short video by the Australian Antarctic Program with students in Years 4, 6, 7, 9 and 10 to consider the changing planet and its implications on seemingly remote ecosystems.

Word Count / Video length: 283 / 1:30 mins

Most people picture Antarctica as a land of ice. But there is a small portion, less than 1%, that is permanently ice-free. This ice-free region is home to 99% of all species on the continent.

Researchers have predicted by 2100 there could be an extra 17,000 sq km of ice-free land, a 25% increase. All thanks to climate change.

So that sounds like a good thing – more space for the species to inhabit. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

As global temperatures rise, ice melts and patches of previously isolated ice-free areas will join up. This will have a huge impact on the biodiversity of the continent, including how species interact with each other.

Perhaps less successful species will go extinct under new competition and invasive species will have more space to take over.

“Permanently ice-free areas range in size from less than one square kilometre to thousands of square kilometres and they are an important breeding ground for seals and seabirds. They are also home to small invertebrates such as springtails and nematodes, and vegetation including fungi, lichen and moss, many of which occur nowhere else in the world,” said lead researcher of the study, Jasmine Lee.

Australian Antarctic Division senior research scientist, Dr Aleks Terauds said the findings of the study were especially important given the restricted distribution of many of these species, which are often only present in a single region across the continent, or even a single ice-free area.

“Understanding the effect of expanding ice-free areas is essential if we are to fully understand the implications of climate change in Antarctica.”

Action to limit warming to 2°C is the best way to protect and conserve the unique biodiversity of Antarctica.

This video and image are courtesy of the Australian Antarctic Program. Access the original resource here.

Login or Sign up for FREE to download a copy of the full teacher resource

Years: 4, 6, 7, 9, 10


Biological Sciences – Ecosystems, Living Things

Earth and Space Sciences – The Changing Earth

Additional – Careers, Technology.

Concepts (South Australia):

Biological Sciences – Interdependence and Ecosystems

Earth and Space Sciences – The Earth’s Surface


4, 6-7 & 9-10