A/Prof. David Leary1
1Faculty Of Law, University Of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia
It’s isolation and extreme climate means Antarctica is one of the world’s richest regions for untouched geoheritage. Sites of global importance in relation to geodiversity include, inter alia, outcrops containing rare or unique minerals such as rare boron deposits in the Larsemann Hills; areas of blue ice containing meteorites such as the Frontier Mountain blue ice field; areas of prime scientific significance such as ice-free areas or blue ice moraines significant for cosmogenic dating; and areas containing rare or unique fossils such as a Miocene penguin fossil site, Fisher Massif, Prince Charles Mountains (SCAR 2016). Antarctica is also host to a range of ‘geo-cultural’ sites of significance in terms of the history of geosciences (SCAR 2016). This paper considers emerging debates in the Antarctic Treaty System on the need for further protection of Antarctica’s geoheritage. After outlining the case for enhanced protection of Antarctica’s unique geoheritage the paper then goes on to provide a tentative gap analysis of the extent to which it is or can be protected under international law. It is argued the Antarctic Treaty system could in part draw on the experience of other international initiatives including the frameworks associated with the UNESCO Global Geoparks movement.
Dr David Leary is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). He has published widely in areas relating to polar regions on topics as diverse as bioprospecting in the Arctic and Antarctica, the Polar Code, the use of drones in Antarctica and whaling. David chaired the first Polar Law Symposium held in Akureyri, Iceland in 2008. He teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Public International Law, Law of the Sea, International Environmental Law and Private International Law at UTS.