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Antarctic Portal links scientists and decision-makers

03 June 2015


Antarctic Environments Portal links scientists and decision-makers

A major new initiative to bridge the gap between scientists and decision makers has been launched during the annual Antarctic Treaty Consultative meeting, ATCM XXXVIII - CEP XVIII, in Bulgaria.

The Antarctic Environments Portal (www.environments.aq) provides an innovative link between Antarctic scientific research and the governance and management work of the Antarctic Treaty System, in particular through the Com­mittee for Environmental Protection (CEP).

“We know Antarctica is changing as the planet warms, but it is the pace of change which concerns both scientists and policy-makers around the world today,” says Antarctica New Zealand’s Environmental Consultant, Dr Neil Gilbert.

“There has never been a more important time for policy decisions on the future of Antarctica to be informed by the best science available on the state of Antarctic environments. The Portal summarises this wealth of science knowledge and puts it at the fingertips of Antarctic policy makers.

“The content of the Portal is prepared by the science community, but written in a style that allows easy access to relevant information by policy makers. Having the information readily available in the Portal will also improve the speed in which information becomes available to policy makers.”

The project has been a three-year collaboration between Antarctica New Zealand and Landcare Research with partners from Australia, Belgium, Norway and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). The Portal also plays an important role in facilitating SCAR’s long-standing mission to provide independent, sound, scientifically-based advice to the Antarctic Treaty Parties.

As well as articles on key issues of policy relevance, the Portal includes an interactive mapping interface that allows users to explore a range of geospatial features including the location of protected areas across the continent.

The Portal is based on peer-reviewed science and existing CEP materials and includes summaries of the state of knowledge on CEP priority issues, the management of those issues and environmental pressures.

“Antarctica New Zealand is proud to have played a leading role in developing this Portal. A genuine need has been met to better inform decision makers with greater immediacy about research which may have far reaching impacts,” says Antarctica New Zealand Chief Executive, Peter Beggs.

Contributions to the Portal will have an impact on policy development and will support the informed management and governance of the Antarctic.
Landcare Research scientist Dr Fraser Morgan, who led the development of the Portal, said the online resource would bring the Antarctic policy and science community closer together by making information more readily and easily accessible to everyone.

“There was a need for a more technical solution to provide detailed, up-to-date science information to policy makers who make decisions about the future of Antarctica. We bought together our Antarctic research expertise and our leadership in developing science-based information systems to deliver a tailored science communication platform. The Portal will provide a much easier and direct route to key information for policy makers” Dr Morgan said.

He believed the Portal would also benefit the science community.

“Scientists, like myself, see this as a conduit to get their science into the hands of policy makers quickly so it can be used. This makes it a win, win for both groups” he said.

“Until now there has not been a centralised resource that allows the Antarctic Treaty countries to have continuous, easy access to information on the current state of knowledge on Antarctic environments. The Portal will provide that for the first time.”

The Portal is now live and a series of new articles on climate change, pollution, and non-native species will be published over the coming months.
ENDS

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