Ecological mapping to protect Antarctic

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Scientists have mapped ecological zones across the Southern Ocean in a world first that aims to protect the sensitive Antarctic marine habitats and wildlife.

The international team of scientists met in Hobart last month to create the map, which covers about 10 per cent of the world’s ocean surface.

Their report, titled Bioregionalisation of the Southern Ocean, will provide a scientific foundation for protecting Antarctic marine habitats and wildlife.

Conservation group WWF said scientists examined information including the ocean’s depth, temperature, currents and sea ice to distinguish different types of environments and understand where animals from whales to plankton could live.

“This map will help us to better understand the Southern Ocean so that we can address the major threats to its habitats and wildlife, such as illegal fishing, climate change and the impact of invasive marine species,” WWF oceans program leader Gilly Llewellyn said.

“The area mapped … will provide the basis for improving fisheries management and the wider management of the Southern Ocean’s flora and fauna, and ultimately identify areas of sea requiring protection.”

The report will be launched today to coincide with the 25th anniversary meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart.

CCAMLR meets annually to discuss issues including illegal fishing, climate change and invasive species in Southern Ocean and Antarctic waters.