The SCAR Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean project
(C. De Broyer Oct 2011)
Biogeographic information is of primary importance for monitoring biodiversity, detecting
the impacts of environmental changes, developing the ecoregionalisation, discovering
marine biodiversity hotspots, and helping to design marine protected areas.
At the end of five years of extensive biodiversity exploration and assessment by the
Census of Antarctic Marine Life (www.caml.aq), and following intense compilation efforts
of Southern Ocean biogeographic data by the SCAR Marine Biodiversity Information
Network (www.scarmarbin.be), a new initiative, the multi-authored “Biogeographic Atlas
of the Southern Ocean”, under the aegis of SCAR, will provide an up-to-date synthesis
of Antarctic biogeographic knowledge. It will constitute a major scientific output of CAML
and SCAR-MarBIN as well as a significant legacy of the International Polar Year to fulfill
the needs of biogeographic information for science, conservation, monitoring and
sustainable management of the Southern Ocean. It will be of direct relevance to the
Antarctic Treaty and associated bodies such as the Convention for the Conservation of
Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
Patterns in the species distribution of the Southern Ocean (or biogeography) have been
progressively revealed by the results of a number of pioneer exploratory expeditions
over the years. The first modern attempt to establish the biogeographic zonation of the
Southern Ocean on the basis of a largely documented and diverse dataset – the
occurrence records of 22 invertebrate benthic and pelagic taxa – was provided by the
synthesis of Hedgpeth et al. (1969) and Hedgpeth (1970), followed by Dell (1972), which
focused on benthos. In addition to Hedgpeth et al. (1969), other folios from the Antarctic
Map Folio Series covered the biogeography of macroalgae (Balech et al. 1968), fish
(DeWitt 1971), birds (Watson et al. 1971) and mammals (Brown et al. 1974).
Despite the robustness of the biogeographic schemes emerging from these syntheses,
these attempts are now largely outdated in face of the exponential development of the
occurrence record datasets in recent decades, the new insights provided by the
molecular and phylogeographic approaches, and the availability of new methods of
analysis, visualization, modelling and prediction of biogeographic distributions.
The renewed interest in biodiversity issues over the last two decades resulted in a
number of new biogeographic studies at the level of various taxonomic groups (in
particular benthic taxa) as well as one single attempt to generalize benthic biogeography
(Griffiths et al. 2010). For the zooplankton, the Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey
(CPR) community recently produced an online “Zooplankton Atlas of the Southern
Ocean” (Mc Leod et al. 2010).
In the framework of the International Polar Year, the Census of Antarctic Marine Life
(CAML, 2005-2010) provided a unique opportunity to intensify biodiversity exploration
and better understand species distribution and abundance. Overall, CAML ended up
involving 19 campaigns conducted by almost 300 researchers from 15 countries. Most of
these campaigns took place in lesser-known areas of the Southern Ocean and explored
depths that had never been reached before.
In parallel, the CAML sister-project, SCAR-MarBIN systematically compiled species
occurrence records from the beginning of Antarctic exploration (De Broyer & Danis
2011). The SCAR-MarBIN geodatabase (http://www.scarmarbin.be/AntobisMapper.php)
currently gives access to more than 1.3 million records from 200 distributed and
interoperable databases and has permitted - since the end of 2005 - more than 50
Recently, CAML and SCAR-MarBIN organized several workshops dedicated to the
analysis and synthesis of the wealth of new (or newly compiled) biogeographic data on
benthos, zooplankton, nekton and top predators. These workshops resulted in the
proposed project to develop a “Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean”.
Aims of the Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean
The major objectives and aims of the biogeographic atlas of the Southern Ocean are:
To establish on the basis of an unprecedented amount, diversity and quality of
biogeographic data, a new synthesis of the biogeography of the Southern Ocean
(patterns and processes), covering macroalgae and zoobenthos, zooplankton,
nekton, birds and seals south of 40°S.
To assemble in one publication (large format atlas and dynamic digital version on
SCAR-MarBIN) a collection of representative maps and syntheses on the distribution
of Southern Ocean organisms (species and assemblages), to provide a general
overview of the biogeography of the Southern Ocean and a benchmark of current
biogeographic knowledge at the end of CAML.
To contribute developing within the CAML and SCAR communities capacity building
in modelling of biogeographic distributions and production of predictive
Relying on the new conceptual and methodological developments in biogeography,
this biogeographic synthesis and its unique supporting database network is primarily
To answer the needs of biogeographic information for science, conservation,
monitoring and sustainable management of the Southern Ocean.
To answer the urgent need to establish the state of biogeographic knowledge in the
context of growing environmental changes in the South Polar region and the
prediction of their effects.
The Biogeographic Atlas will also contribute to the legacies of both CAML and the
International Polar Year in terms of Southern Ocean biodiversity exploration (new taxa,
taxonomic revisions) and assessment of biodiversity distribution (new records, new
syntheses, modelling of distributions, molecular phylogeography,…). Relevant synthetic
texts, data layers and maps will directly feed into the SCAR-MarBIN online « Antarctic
Field Guide » (afg.biodiversity.aq), the « Encyclopedia of Life » (www.eol.org) and the
new ANTABIF geoserver (www.biodiversity.aq).
Operators and Partners
The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) (www.scar.org), is the main
body for the international coordination of scientific research in Antarctica and the
Southern Ocean. It is an interdisciplinary committee of the International Council for
Science (ICSU). SCAR conducts the international, multidisciplinary programme
« Evolution and Biodiversity in the Antarctic (EBA): The Response of Life to Change »
2006 -2013 (www.eba.aq), which aims at “describing the past, understanding the
present, and predicting the future” of Antarctic biodiversity. The Biogeographic Atlas
project will contribute to EBA and to the proposed new SCAR programmes « State of the
Antarctic Ecosystem (AntEco)» and « Antarctic Ecosystems: Adaptations, Thresholds
and Resilience (AntETR)». The SCAR Expert Group on Birds and Marine Mammals
(www.egbamm.scar.org) is also actively participating in the new Biogeographic Atlas
The Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML) 2005-2010 (www.caml.aq), a very
successful regional programme of the global Census of Marine Life, aimed at assessing
the nature, distribution and abundance of Southern Ocean biodiversity, from tiny viruses
up to whales. CAML conducted a collaborative, large-scale survey of the Southern
Ocean species diversity, studying the evolution of life in Antarctic waters to determine
how this has influenced the diversity of the present biota, and using these observations
to predict how it might respond to future change. CAML community scientists are
actively involved in the present project.
The Biogeographic Atlas will contribute to the new global programme - building on the
success of the Census of Marine Life - “Life in a Changing Ocean”
The present project is strongly supported by SCAR-MarBIN, which compiles and
manages the existing and new information (generated by CAML) on Antarctic marine
biodiversity by establishing and supporting a distributed system of interoperable
databases, forming the Antarctic Regional Node of the Ocean Biogeographic Information
System (OBIS: www.iobis.org), under the aegis of SCAR. This information ultimately
contributes to global-scale biodiversity information initiatives such as the Global
Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Founding partners of SCAR-MarBIN included:
the Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung (www.awi.de), the Australian
Antarctic Division (www.aad.gov.au), the Biodiversity of Antarctic Zoobenthos
consortium (www.bianzo.be), the British Antarctic Survey (www.antarctica.ac.uk), the
Deutsche Zentrum für Marine Biodiversitätsforschung (www.senckenberg.de/dzmb), the
SCAR Committee on Antarctic Data Management (www.scadm.scar.org).
Since 2005, SCAR-MarBIN has been supported by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural
Sciences (www.naturalsciences.be), the Belgian Biodiversity Platform
(www.biodiversity.be), the Belgian Science Policy Office (www.belspo.be), the Alfred P.
Sloan Foundation (through the Census of Marine Life) and the Total Foundation
(http://foundation.total.com/) through the project “Ice Oceans: Exploring the Antarctic
The support of the Total Foundation has been critical in the establishment of the first
comprehensive inventory of the Antarctic marine biodiversity, the development of the
related taxonomic knowledge and expertise, and the initiation of the synthesis of the new
biogeography of the Southern Ocean.
The Atlas has an editorial committee that consists of Claude De Broyer (co-chief editor,
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium), Philippe Koubbi (co-
chief editor, Laboratoire d’océanographie de Villefranche, UPMC, France), Bruno Danis
(Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium), Bruno David (Université
de Bourgogne, Dijon, France), Susie Grant (British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK),
Huw Griffiths (British Antarctic Survey , Cambridge, UK), Julian Gutt (Alfred Wegener
Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany), Christoph Held (Alfred Wegener Institute,
Bremerhaven, Germany), Graham Hosie (Australian Antarctic Division, Hobart,
Australia), Alix Post (Geoscience Australia, Canberra, Australia), Yan Ropert-Coudert
(Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Currien, Strasbourg, France).
More than 60 contributors (biogeographers, taxonomists, ecologists, molecular
biologists, IT-experts, environmental datasets providers, modelers, GIS-experts) from 36
institutions in 16 countries are contributing to the Atlas, under the aegis of SCAR and the
coordination of the Editorial Committee.
Contributors belong to the following institutions:
Australia: Australian Antarctic Division, Hobart, Tasmania; Geoscience Australia,
Canberra; Queensland Museum, Brisbane; South Australian Museum, Adelaide;
University of Tasmania, Hobart; La Trobe University, Victoria.
Austria: Universität Wien, Vienna.
Belgium: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels; Marine Biology
Section, University of Ghent; Laboratoire de Biologie Marine, Université Libre de
France: Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche-sur-mer; Biogeosciences,
Université de Bourgogne, Dijon; Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Currien, Université
de Strasbourg; Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris.
Germany: Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven;
Biozentrum Grindel & Zoological Museum, University of Hamburg; Deutsches
Zentrum für Marine Biodiversitätsforschung, Willemshaven; Forschungsinstitut und
Naturmuseum Senckenberg, Frankfurt-am-Main.
Ireland: Martin Ryan Marine Science Institute, National University of Ireland, Galway.
Italy: Museo Nazionale del Antartide, University of Genoa.
Japan: Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Tokyo.
New Zealand: National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, Wellington.
Poland: Department of Polar Biology and Oceanobiology, University of Lodz;
Oceanographic Institute of Polish Academy of Sciences, Gdynia.
Russia: Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, St Petersburg.
South Africa: Iziko South African Museum, Capetown.
Spain: University of Sevilla; Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona; Institut de Ciencies
del Mar, Barcelona; University of Valencia; University of the Basque Country.
United Kingdom: British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge; National Oceanography
Uruguay: Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Montevideo.
USA: University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.;
Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center, University of Kansas,
Lawrence; American Museum of Natural History, New York.
To reach its objectives the project will organize dedicated workshops and rely on the
contributions of various experts, which may be supported when necessary through a
system of “minigrants” (which has been previously highly successful in CAML, SCAR-
MarBIN and other Census of Marine Life related projects).
- Data completion and validation by experts
- Development of a dedicated database
- Production of distribution maps
- Biogeographic analyses and syntheses at taxon- and community level by
- Redactional and editorial work by Editorial Committee
Dedicated workshops will deal with:
- Synthesis of comparative biogeographic patterns (macrophytobenthos and
zoobenthos, zooplankton, nekton, birds and seals)
- Synthesis of biogeographic and phylogeographic processes
- Modelling of biogeographic distribution and production of predictive maps
- Development of a dedicated website with ad hoc functionalities (visualization,
tailor-made mapping, …).
Illustrative maps will be the key elements of the Atlas. Synthetic texts - facing the maps –
will explain the typical biogeographic patterns and processes of the taxon, assemblage
or environmental parameter under consideration, with essential references. Synthetic
texts will deal with the following aspects - as appropriate -: biodiversity characteristics of
the group (or assemblage), patterns of geographic and bathymetric distribution,
biogeographic zonation, factors and processes explaining geographic and bathymetric
Maps will illustrate - at appropriate taxonomic level – geographic and bathymetric
distribution patterns that are representative of the group or assemblage (e.g. circumpolar
distribution vs allopatric, sub-Antarctic vs Antarctic, West vs East Antarctic, bipolarity,
endemism, coastal- shelf– deep sea patterns and relationships,…).
The Atlas will be published by SCAR under CCBY license, in compliance with the SCAR
Data Policy (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).
Structure of the Biogeographic Atlas (printed version)
o about the Atlas (vision and history; context: CAML and the International
Polar Year, Global Change,…).
o Antarctic biogeography (historical aspects; progress in biodiversity
exploration; recent improvement of availability of biogeographic data; new
developments in biogeography,…)
o data (sources, types, formats, resolution, validation, limitations)
o mapping methods
o modelisation methods
o evolutionary models, paleo-oceanography, extinctions,…
o geomorphology, water masses, sea ice, sediments, etc…
o species level: benthos, plankton, nekton, birds and seals
o assemblage/community level
o focus on species richness and hotspots
o focus on key species
o vicariance, colonisation,..
o the molecular approach
o maps for selected taxa (cephalopods, isopods, echinids, ophiuroids, …)
o maps for species flocks
o climate change and predictions
o CAML legacy sites
o Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS)
o dynamic Atlas
o gap analysis and expedition design
o climate change scenarios (IPCC layers)
o Marine Protected Areas
o human impacts: economics, invasives and contaminants
Overview and Conclusions
References, links, and authors contact details
Dynamic online version and modelling
A dynamic digital version of the Biogeographic Atlas will be available on the SCAR-
MarBIN portal, built from the content of the static version, but taking advantage of a
dynamic approach, with various functionalities, including the capacity to build tailor-made
maps, based from the content of different databases (Register of Antarctic Marine
Species (RAMS), SCAR-MarBIN, Antarctic Field Guides, …), turning the Atlas project
into a community-driven platform entailed to publish and share maps generated using
the most up-to-date information.
The dynamic version will complete and expand the hard copy Atlas, and offer in addition
– using appropriate webservices - analysis and visualization tools as well as
environmental/model datasets in appropriate formats directly useful in GIS applications
such as habitat modelling and prediction of potential climate-related changes. Habitat
modelling is a method that predicts species potential distribution according to the
species relation to a set of environmental variables. However, because of the high
number of rare species, in some case, the species modelling is not possible for all of
them. In that case, the community modelling will be achieved to identify areas of major
change of biodiversity. Two workshops identified in 2010 and 2011 the methodology that
will be used for the Atlas. (see Koubbi et al. 2010, 2011; Loots et al. 2007; Pinkerton et
Special care will be devoted to ease the access to data, by documenting it (using
metadata from the Global Change Master Directory, SERF format) and using strong
Geospatial standards (Open Geospatial Consortium) to ensure interoperability and direct
usability of the data in many contexts.
For a selection of species and assemblages/communities, predictive distribution maps
based on the habitat modelling methodology will already be published in the printed
version. A team of modelers, GIS and IT experts has been set up to contribute these
predictive distribution maps to the Atlas.
Potential users of the atlas include:
researchers (biogeographers, taxonomists, ecologists, molecular biologists,
stakeholders and policy makers (Antarctic Treaty System: Committee on
Environmental Protection (CEP), Commission for the Conservation of the Antarctic
Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR),…); SCAR; Global Biodiversity Information
Facility (GBIF), Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS), International
Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), NGOs, fisheries organizations,…
the Education & Outreach community
and the general public.
The Atlas information will be available to the various users though targeted distribution of
the printed version (including e.g. students in Marine Biology) and through different
websites: SCAR-MarBIN, AntaBIF, EoL.