Revision of the McMurdo Dry Valleys management plan

Lake Vashka, Barwick Valley protected area. Photo: © Colin Harris
Lake Vashka, Barwick Valley protected area. Photo: © Colin Harris.

The management plan for the McMurdo Dry Valleys Antarctic Specially Managed Area (ASMA) was originally adopted in 2004. In accordance with Treaty requirements, Italy, NZ and the US initiated a review of the plan after 5 years. ERA was engaged to assist in revising the policies and text, and to develop a suite of new maps for the area. ERA collaborated closely with environmental staff in Antarctica NZ and USAP and with the science community when undertaking the review. The newly revised plan was adopted by the Antarctic Treaty in Buenos Aires in June 2011. One major revision was to the zoning scheme, with the old category of 'Special Features' being replaced by 'Restricted' and 'Scientific' Zones. Site descriptions and maps were added for each Restricted, Scientific, Facilities and Visitor Zone. ERA carried out fieldwork in 2009 to make site observations and collect GPS data, and 24 new maps were developed. All maps have been prepared in two different versions - black & white line maps which are included in the Management Plan and colour image versions which include a backdrop of high quality satellite and aerial imagery which can be downloaded from the McMurdo Dry Valleys website.

ERA also designed and produced the new edition of the Dry Valleys ASMA Manual for the National Programmes, which was well received by personnel working in the area. The manual was recognized with an 'Award of Merit' in the 2011-12 STC Spotlight Awards.

The aim of the management plan is to improve coordination and planning of activities taking place within the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Dr Colin Harris of ERA participated in the development of the original management plan from 1994 - 2001, and has written several articles on the topic. The first of these was on the principles and application of zoning mechanisms under Annex V of the Madrid Protocol (first published as Harris, C.M. 1994. Standardisation of zones within specially protected and managed areas under the Antarctic Environmental Protocol. Polar Record 30(175): 283-86.). A revised version of this article argues the need for a coherent and proactive approach to zoning in Antarctica, so that a disparate and potentially confusing array of zones could be avoided. Recently, the Antarctic Treaty has taken steps to implement these recommendations in the newly revised Guide to the Preparation of ASPA Management Plans in Antarctica.

A second article examined environmental management issues in the McMurdo Dry Valleys specifically, and reviewed the principal types of activities and pressures apparent in the region. The case is argued for an environmental management plan and also development of an environmental Geographical Information System (GIS) to support science and management needs. This article was first published as Harris, C.M. 1998. Science and environmental management in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. In Priscu, J (ed) Ecosystem Processes in a Polar Desert: the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Antarctic Research Series, Vol. 72, American Geophysical Union, Washington. Download the article on environmental management in the Dry Valleys (pdf 375 kb).

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Last Update: 28 January 2014