Outcome 3: Antarctica

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1 Outcome 3: Antarctica

2 Outcome 3: Antarctica Advance Australia s strategic, scientific, environmental and economic interests in the Antarctic by protecting, administering and researching the region. Summary of performance for Outcome 3 The Department contributed significantly to the stability and environmental protection of the Antarctic and delivered a leading science programme. The Department was an active participant in the Antarctic Treaty system, which incorporates the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. Work in supported the Government s overall objectives in Antarctica and the objectives of the Australian Antarctic Science Strategic Plan to The Department enabled major achievements in Australian Antarctic science in the areas of oceanographic and ecological marine research. This involved partnerships with international institutions and scientists. In July 2014, the Department released a request for tender for a next-generation icebreaker to replace the ageing Aurora Australis to support multidisciplinary science and to resupply our Antarctic and subantarctic research stations. The tender evaluation finished on 29 June At the end of the season, the Department debriefed on its activities supporting Antarctic and subantarctic operations, including science, shipping, aviation, field support, emergency management, medical, safety, environment and human resources. This evaluation fed into revised planning, risk and management strategies for the coming year. On 14 August 2014, an updated Threat abatement plan for the incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations was released. The Department s Australian Antarctic Division is the only national Antarctic programme in the world to achieve and maintain certification for environmental management for its entire range of activities under the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard ISO:14001:2004 Environmental management systems Requirements with guidance for use. Following an external audit by the British Standards Institution on 4 September 2014, the division received triennial recertification until September / Annual Report

3 Programme 3.1: Antarctica: Science, Policy and Presence Programme 3.1 objectives Australia s Antarctic Programme objectives are based on the region s strategic, scientific, environmental and economic importance for Australia. They are as follows: conduct scientific research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean that supports national policy and environmental management priorities, in particular taking advantage of the special opportunities the Antarctic offers for globally significant and coordinated research preserve Australia s sovereignty over the Australian Antarctic Territory, including our sovereign rights over adjacent offshore areas protect the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean environment, having regard to its special qualities and effects on our region contribute to maintaining Antarctica s freedom from strategic and/or political confrontation remain informed about, and able to influence, developments in a region geographically proximate to Australia facilitate derivation of any reasonable economic benefits from living and non-living resources of the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean (excluding benefits from mining and oil drilling in the Antarctic Treaty area). Outcome 3: Antarctica Programme 3.1 description In , the Department worked towards the objectives of Programme 3.1 by: delivering high-priority Antarctic scientific research in accordance with the goals of the Australian Antarctic Science Strategic Plan to conducting a modern Antarctic programme in line with the Government s expectations, including the development and delivery of modernisation options for existing transport and infrastructure continuing to pursue Australia s Antarctic policy objectives, including those in relation to environmental protection, and advancing Australia s Antarctic interests within the Antarctic Treaty system and related forums operating a transport and logistics network to ensure the resupply and maintenance of all Australia s Antarctic and subantarctic stations, and supporting scientific research coordinating the Government s preparation of its 20 Year Australian Antarctic strategic plan. 103

4 Case study Workshop on sea ice challenges operating in Antarctica Thick and extensive sea ice cover has been hampering the dispatch of scientists, support personnel and supplies to research facilities operated by Australia and other nations in east Antarctica. In response, the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes (COMNAP), which represents 30 nations, convened the first Antarctic Sea Ice Challenges Workshop, held on May The workshop was jointly hosted by the Australian Antarctic Division and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre. Fifty-eight international experts including Antarctic programme managers, sea ice scientists, ice navigators and shipping specialists examined scientific advice on the causes and likely future trends in sea ice cover and discussed innovative and pragmatic solutions. Experts from the Australian Antarctic Division and the Bureau of Meteorology presented at the workshop. The event showed the value of international collaborative effort in harnessing scientific and logistics expertise to solve practical operational problems, and contributed to our understanding of environmental changes in the Antarctic environment. COMNAP will consider the outcomes from the workshop later in Papers and other material are available on the COMNAP website. Programme 3.1 performance review Internationally recognised scientific research The Australian Antarctic science programme undertook 63 science projects led by Australian researchers from 21 Australian institutions and five international institutions. These projects involved collaborations with 150 international institutions from 21 countries and with 78 students (including 61 PhD candidates). In , major achievements for Australian Antarctic science were in oceanographic and ecological marine research. This included two research voyages on Aurora Australis, oceanographic research at the Totten and Mertz glaciers (see case study) and an opportunistic marine ecosystem project offshore from Australia s Davis and Mawson stations, which was made possible when easing ice conditions at Mawson Station allowed over-water resupply. A third research voyage on Tangaroa was undertaken as a joint New Zealand Australian research effort to study blue whales in the Southern Ocean and Ross Sea. 104 / Annual Report

5 As well as the ship-based projects, two major experimental projects were undertaken on the impacts of ocean acidification. Experiments at Davis Station were performed in tanks (mesocosms) to study the effects of elevated CO 2 on cell physiology and community composition of Antarctic marine microbes. At Casey Station, a team of divers and technicians from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland undertook a free ocean CO 2 enrichment experiment to study the effects of ocean acidification on marine and seafloor communities. Australian influence in the Antarctic Treaty system The Department continued to advance Australia s interests in the forums of the Antarctic Treaty system through leadership and participation in meetings including the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Australia was successful in achieving its objectives at these meetings. Outcome 3: Antarctica In 2015, three senior positions in these forums are held by Australia, including the chair of the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP). A CEP meeting adopted new environmental information tools in the form of an Antarctic environments portal (www.environments.aq/) and the first pan-antarctic report on important bird areas. It agreed a climate change response work plan to prepare for the environmental impacts of climate change and its implications for Antarctic governance and management. We continued to build our relationships with key international partners in Antarctica. This included supporting the Prime Minister to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Antarctica and Southern Ocean Cooperation with China during President Xi Jinping s November 2014 visit to Australia. This agreement reaffirms our commitment to the Antarctic Treaty system and establishes a mechanism for enhanced environmental, policy, scientific and operational collaboration. Along with Chile and the United States, Australia co-chaired a Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) symposium to review challenges in the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources. The issues raised at the symposium will be presented to the CCAMLR Commission to assist in setting the strategic direction for CCAMLR for at least the next 10 years. Next-generation icebreaker In July 2014, the Department released a request for tender for a next-generation icebreaker to replace the ageing icebreaker Aurora Australis. This new icebreaker will support multidisciplinary science and resupply our Antarctic and subantarctic research stations. The request for tender for the design, building and long-term operation and maintenance of a research and supply icebreaker was released to two pre-qualified tenderers. One bid was received and an evaluation of it finished on 29 June This is a significant step towards replacing the Aurora Australis with a next-generation icebreaker. 105

6 Key performance indicators and deliverables Programme 3.1: Antarctica: Science, Policy and Presence Deliverables Issue and evaluate a Request for Tender for replacement of the Australian Antarctic Programme icebreaker during Deliver high-priority Australian Antarctic scientific research in accordance with the goals of the Australian Antarctic Science Strategic Plan to Protect the Antarctic environment and undertake work of practical, economic and international significance including compliance with all Australian Antarctic environmental legislation results Request for tender for the design, building and long-term operation and maintenance of a research and supply icebreaker was released to two pre-qualified tenderers in July The tender closed on 2 March 2015, evaluation started immediately and finished on 29 June Australian researchers from 21 Australian institutions and five international institutions led 63 science projects. The new Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve Management Plan was approved and released. This is the third management plan for the region and the second under the EPBC Act. Worked with government and non-government operators seeking to enter the marine reserve to ensure they are aware of the management plan s conservation objectives, and requirements for the management of activities in the area. Reviewed and redeveloped the Australian Antarctic Division s environmental compliance and enforcement framework to ensure that legislative and regulatory requirements are dealt with and information is available to all staff and expeditioners on their responsibilities and obligations. The Mawson Station Heritage Management Plan was completed in accordance with EPBC Act requirements for protection and management of listed sites. Published an updated Threat abatement plan for the incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations in / Annual Report

7 Programme 3.1: Antarctica: Science, Policy and Presence Deliverables Pursue Australia s Antarctic policy objectives through participation in the Antarctic Treaty system and related forums results The Department was influential in advancing Australia s interests at meetings of: the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties and the Committee for Environmental Protection the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources Outcome 3: Antarctica the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. Administer the Australian Antarctic Territory and the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands, including the authorisation and management of Australian activities in accordance with relevant legislation and environmental protection measures. Maintain three stations in the Australian Antarctic Territory (Casey, Davis and Mawson) and one station in the subantarctic (Macquarie Island). The territories were administered in accordance with relevant legislation and environment protection measures. All four research stations were maintained, providing a permanent presence and support for research. 107

8 Programme 3.1: Antarctica: Science, Policy and Presence Deliverables Operate a transport and logistics network using shipping and air services to: transport expeditioners and cargo between Australia, Antarctica and subantarctic Islands support scientific research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean results Supported 63 science projects by providing transport and logistics including: 186 shipping days on the Aurora Australis, of which 47 were dedicated to marine science research over two voyages and an unscheduled evacuation of an ill expeditioner from Davis Station 20 intercontinental flights in total, exceeding the target of 15 (albeit not limited to the Hobart Casey route). The extra flights enabled collaborative or cost-sharing activities with international partners in return for comparable in-kind support: nine scheduled flights between Hobart and Wilkins Aerodrome one flight to transport Australian expeditioners to the US McMurdo Station before travelling on to Casey Station on US transport or Australian Antarctic Division chartered fixed-wing aircraft 10 Antarctic Airlink flights to transfer passengers to other Antarctic destinations via the US ice runway at McMurdo Station budget target results Scientists active in Antarctica, the subantarctic and the Southern Ocean during the financial year Flights between Hobart and Casey stations (number of return flights) Hobart to Casey A total of 20 intercontinental Antarctic flights 108 / Annual Report

9 Programme 3.1: Antarctica: Science, Policy and Presence Key performance indicators Scientific research conducted in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is internationally recognised, as indicated by: the number of scientific papers published in peer reviewed journals and/or submitted to key international forums in the previous calendar year results A total of 103 papers published. A total of 18 papers submitted to key international journals or forums during Projects collaborated with 150 international institutions from 21 countries. Outcome 3: Antarctica the number of international institutions collaborating in the Australian Antarctic programme during the financial year. Exhibit enhanced Australian influence in the Antarctic Treaty system, including through participation in its various forums, as measured by the extent to which Australia s objectives are achieved and the number of senior positions (e.g. Chairperson or Vice- Chairperson) held by Australia during the financial year. Advanced Australia s interests through leadership and participation in the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and its Committee for Environmental Protection, and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Successfully achieved Australia s objectives in these meetings. Australia s Antarctic programme contributes to protecting the Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments through full compliance with all Australian Antarctic environmental legislation during the financial year. Three senior positions held by Australia, including chair of the Committee for Environmental Protection. Substantially achieved. Compliance auditing identified eight minor administrative non-compliances with permit conditions. Two other non-compliances with environmental legislation were identified. Both were investigated and steps taken to mitigate the risk of similar non-compliances occurring. Key performance indicators budget target results Environmental authorisations assessed relating to tourism (number)

10 Case study Interaction between the Antarctic ice sheet and the ocean Ice melting where it meets the ocean is the most significant driver of future sea level rise originating from Antarctica. Because of its significant impact on rising sea levels, this is a focus of the Australian Antarctic programme. The Totten Glacier is a region of particular importance, just east of Casey Station. It is the largest in East Antarctica and drains an area of over half a million square kilometres. If all vulnerable portions of the glacier melted and the extent of vulnerability is not yet known it could contribute up to 3.5 metres to rising sea levels over many centuries, with potential impact in the present century. The surface of the glacier has been observed by satellite to be lowering by up to two metres a year for the last decade. Airborne studies reveal that over much of the area the bedrock under the ice is well below sea level, making the ice more vulnerable to intrusion by warmer ocean currents. Direct ocean observations are difficult because the area is subject to problematic ice conditions and is hard to reach. So it was a significant achievement last season when the research vessel Aurora Australis reached the front of the Totten Glacier for the first time. A team of 23 scientists and technicians used oceanographic methods to assess how much ocean heat is available to melt the base of the glacier. They recovered US and Australian instruments deployed in an earlier visit to the region by the US icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer. Early results from this work revealed the presence of relatively warm water ( 0.5 degrees Celsius) from the deep ocean where colder waters (about 1.8 degrees Celsius) typical of the continental shelf were expected. This warmer water has the potential to drive melting underneath floating portions of the glacier, which may help explain the observed lowering at the surface. Airborne measurements over the last several seasons by US and Australian researchers flying out of Casey Station mapped the ocean floor beneath floating ice, revealing two deep channels that could allow access by warm water. Understanding the rate of and reasons for change in ice and ocean interactions requires sustained research using a variety of platforms. The Totten Glacier work illustrates the importance of extensive, long-term international collaborations. The United States is a major partner in oceanographic and airborne studies. There have been significant contributions by several other nations, including France and the United Kingdom. The seven-week voyage was funded through the Australian Research Council s Special Research Initiative for Antarctic Gateway Partnership, the Australian Antarctic Division and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystem Cooperative Research Centre. 110 / Annual Report

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