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Polar and Sub-polar

The Polar and Sub-polar region brings together four OCTs and encompasses both Arctic/sub-Arctic and Antarctic/sub-Antarctic areas. Although most species differ between the two hemispheres, both regions face similar biodiversity and ecosystem issues as they are the most exposed and the most sensitive to the major global changes of climate. Paired with high levels of endemism on most islands, the BEST strategy will focus on conservation of a unique biodiversity inhabiting the most productive oceans, which also support a large part of the world’s biodiversity.


Sub-regions: Arctic and Sub-Arctic and Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic.

Main characteristics of the Region

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Main challenges

  • Global changes
  • Invasive Alien Species (IAS)
  • Protected areas
  • Sustainable management of natural resources: Fishing in Antarctic/sub-Antarctic areas, fishing and mining in Arctic/sub-Arctic areas.

Importance for the region to be involved in the BEST initiative.

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The polar and sub-polar ecosystems are the most exposed to global changes and a number of significant direct impacts on biodiversity have already been documented in both hemispheres. In addition, the Arctic and Southern Oceans are among the most productive marine environment with worldwide influence on a large part of other marine ecosystem of lower latitudes. They also face substantial exploitation of natural resources raising critical conservation concerns. While issues are often reported locally, the BEST initiative represents a more global approach of polar and sub-polar conservation of ecosystems. The BEST initiative aims at bringing together the major issues that are common to all polar and sub-polar OCTs. By developing specific monitoring tools, the BEST initiative will be determinant in designing the local conservation strategies from the definition of the global conservation priorities of this region.


Arctic and Sub-Arctic sub-region:

Main characteristics of the sub-region

  • Greenland: Oversea Country under Denmark sovereignty
  • St. Pierre and Miquelon: Oversea Collectivity of France
  • Greenland and St. Pierre and Miquelon represent the Arctic and sub-Arctic sub-regions of the hub respectively.

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  • Greenland is the largest non-continental island of the world, with more than 100 small islands, although 81% (1,755,637 km2) of land is covered by ice sheet.
  • St. Pierre and Miquelon is an archipelago of eight islands, Saint Pierre (25 km2) and Miquelon-Langlade being (216 km2) being the main ones.
  • Total land area: Greenland = 2,166,086 km2 , St. Pierre and Miquelon = 242 km2
  • Total marine area: Greenland = 2,353,856 km2 , St. Pierre and Miquelon = 12,348 km2

Socioeconomic, Policy and Civil Society Context

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  • Population size: Greenland = 56,483 (2013), St. Pierre and Miquelon = 5,888 (2011)
  • GDP per capita: Greenland = 26,134 € (2011) , St. Pierre and Miquelon = 26,073 € (2007)
  • Main sources of income: Greenland = fisheries and mining, St. Pierre and Miquelon = fisheries
  • Main environmental organizations in Greenland: Departement of Nature, Energy and Climate (Ministry of Environment and Nature), Avataq (the Greenland Nature and Environment Association), ICC (the Inuit Circumpolar Council) and Greenland Institute of Natural Resources (GINR).
  • St Pierre and Miquelon: two main environmental organizations: Ministry of Overseas Departments and Territories, and Association pour l’Etude et la Protection de la Nature à Saint-Pierre et Miquelon (AEPNT).

Facts and Figures

Overseas TerritoryNo. threatened speciesNo. endemic speciesNo. terrestrial protected areas% total land in protected areaNo. marine protected areas% total marine in protected areas
St. Pierre and Miquelon70623.512.09

Greenland: 1 existing BEST Project (Pisuna projectpdf(663 kB))

Main challenges

While Greenland and St. Pierre and Miquelon’s environments face few direct threats from human activities, save for close to the towns and settlements, most threats to biodiversity result from global warming. The impacts of the latter are been primarily documented in Greenland with a tremendous decrease of ice area over the last decades. Such decrease is responsible for smaller distribution areas of a number of plant and animal species, including already threatened and/or endemic species.

Importance for the region to be involved in the BEST initiative

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Greenland and St. Pierre and Miquelon are among the BEST polar and sub-polar hub OCTs with greatest influence of civil society in conservation decision making processes. While a number of environment protection projects have already been developed, the BEST initiative aims at involving the various stakeholders of the sub-region in a global strategy of biodiversity conservation, with a special focus on the urgent and specific issues they are currently facing such as global warming.

Useful links:


Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic sub-region:

Main characteristics of the sub-regions:

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  • French OCTs: French Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Territories (TAAF): three groups of islands: Amsterdam and Saint Paul islands, Crozet and Kerguelen islands (sub-Antarctic) and Adélie Land (Antarctic)
  • United Kingdom OCTs: two groups of islands: South Georgia and South Sandwich (sub-Antarctic) and the British Antarctic Territory (BAT – Antarctic).
  • TAAF and UK OCTs entities are highly isolated oceanic islands with unique climate and extreme conditions. Recently discovered by humans (between the XVIth and XVIIIth centuries) and deeply influenced by surrounding waters, which are located in one of the most productive part of Atlantic, Indian and Southern Oceans.
  • Total land area: TAAF = 439,672 km2, UK OCTs= 1,717,740 km2
  • Total marine area of TAAF: TAAF = 1,633,877 million km2, UK OCTs= 1,449.832 km2

Socioeconomic, Policy and Civil Society Context

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  • Permanent inhabitants on S. Georgia (~ 30) only. On other islands and in BAT: military presence, scientific programs and logistic activity only.
  • Historically major whaling and sealing areas, the main socio-economic activity is now the Patagonian toothfish longline fishery occurring in the EEZs. This fishery is managed by local institutions and occurs under CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resource) jurisdiction.
  • TAAF: National Nature Reserve of the French southern territories (encompassing Amsterdam, Saint Paul, Crozet and Kerguelen islands), created in 2006 (terrestrial: 7,000 km2; marine: 15,700 km2).
  • UK OCTs: two main environmental organizations: South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute

Facts and Figures

Overseas TerritoryNo. threatened speciesNo. endemic speciesNo. terrestrial protected areas% total land in protected areaNo. marine protected areas% total marine in protected areas
South Georgia125931.8130.3
South Sandwich
St Paul/ Amsterdam6
Adelie Land00

TAAF: 1 existing BEST project (Macaroni penguinspdf(916 kB))

Main challenges

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  • Breeding (land) and feeding (sea) grounds for numerous species including endemic species highly sensitive to habitat degradation and to resource availability (e.g. critical need for sustainable marine resource harvest with limited impacts on local species)
  • Amongst the most exposed to climate change areas of the world (e.g. significant impacts of increasing temperature already reported in numerous seabird population trends)
  • Highly sensitive to IAS (Invasive Alien Species), which are already responsible for significant impacts on native species
  • Illegal- and over-fishing, which impacts on habitats and marine life and bird populations.
  • Lack of baseline data, particularly in the marine environment.

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The TAAFs and the UK OCTs are located within the most productive part of the Atlantic, Indian and Southern oceans, which support a large part of the world’s biodiversity. Characterized by a wealth of resources, tremendous marine biodiversity richness and extreme prevailing climate conditions, these regions are amongst the most exposed to climate change. A large part of their biodiversity is endemic to specific islands and most species have been already classified as endangered or critically endangered (e.g. albatross of Amsterdam). While conservation of some species relies on localized breeding grounds, it is also highly sensitive to invasive species and diseases brought by humans.

Importance for the Region to be involved in the BEST initiative

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Great geographical isolation combined with unique biodiversity, strong endemicity, high sensitivity to climate changes and vulnerability to impacts from human activities such as fisheries and IAS, this region, as part of the polar and sub-polar hub in the BEST initiative, critically need a global risk assessment involving all partners and stakeholders and leading to concrete striking actions of conservation.

Useful links: