British Antarctic Territory

About the Territory

The British Antarctic Territory lies between longitudes 20o and 80o West and south of latitude 60o South. It includes the South Orkney Islands, the South Shetland Islands, the Antarctic Peninsula and all the adjacent islands as well as the land mass extending to the South Pole. The land mass is largely ice-covered and the adjacent seas are frozen during the winter. Around the coasts, temperatures during the summer (December to February) are close to or just above 0oC whilst during the winter monthly mean temperatures are between -10oC and -20oC. On the high interior plateau summers temperatures are normally below -20oC and monthly mean temperatures fall below -60oC during the winter.

The British Antarctic Territory has no indigenous population but there are number of scientific bases, including three run by the British Antarctic Survey. The Territory is administered from London by staff in the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Annual revenue comes from income tax on over-wintering scientists, stamp sales and interest from capital reserves. All territorial sovereignty claims to Antarctica are held in abeyance under Article IV of the Antarctic Treaty 1959.

Biodiversity

There are no naturally occurring land mammals, amphibians or reptiles and invertebrate fauna is sparse, particularly on the continent. The vertebrate biodiversity comprises breeding and visiting seabirds and seals. Flora is very limited with only two flowering species although there are 100 species of mosses, 25 liverwort species and 300-400 lichens. Consequently, the ecosystems are relatively simple and fragile.

Policy/strategy background

There is a British Antarctic Strategy Paper (2011-2013) which sets out a framework of Headline Objectives for the Territory and priority areas for commissioning projects. The third Headline Objective is “To protect the BAT environment, including its British heritage, by developing a range of tools to minimise direct human impacts and supporting the UK’s leading influence in environmental issues in Antarctica within the Antarctic Treaty System”. The territory can use its funds to support projects in four priority areas including Environmental protection and minimising human impacts. This includes development of protection and conservation measures for flora and fauna, identification of future environmental challenges and mitigating measures and minimising human impacts.

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