Terrestrial biodiversity in these territories is very limited. The terrestrial fauna is dominated by some micro-arthropods that are mainly found in areas with vegetation. The dominant plant cover consists of low-growing cryptograms including mosses, lichens, fungi and hepatic plants, found in those parts which are ice free during the summer months. The flowering plants include the Antarctic Hair Grass (Deschampsia antarctica) and the Antarctic Pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis), the only indigenous flowering plants found in the Antarctic.

Similarly, there are only two insect species. A wingless fly (the chironomid Belgica antarctica), which is endemic to the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands, and another chironomid (Parochlus steinenii), Antarctica’s only winged insect, occur on the South Shetland Islands, South Georgia and in Tierra del Fuego.

In contrast with the land, marine diversity is particularly rich with several species of marine birds that forage in the near-shore and offshore waters and use the islands and exposed coastal rocks as nesting grounds. A very small number of species is suitably adapted to the climate conditions in the Antarctic to be able to breed, among them, the Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri), the Adélie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae), the Antarctic Prions (Pachyptila desolata) and the Snow Petrel (Pagodroma nivea). Other prions, fulmars and puffins are also very abundant.

Several species of whales and seals take advantage of the fish and plankton-rich waters. Read more