as well as national and international programs or authorities that are involved in the treaty process.6 It also has the necessary flexibility to update information and evolve over time as new findings accumulate about drilling, biological and geological information, and exploration methods.

The committee’s recommendations can be tracked in the diagram (Figure 6.1). Recommendations 1 and 2 state the committee’s strong belief that carefully managed scientific research on subglacial lakes should begin while preserving the environment for future potential discoveries through a suitably conservative approach. Working through SCAR, it will be important to develop criteria and research specifications that may be incorporated into management plans for subglacial aquatic environments (Recommendations 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12). An initial research protocol is outlined in Recommendation 12 and is intended for both international and national levels.

Exploration will continue to be subject to formal peer review through Antarctic Treaty protocols (e.g., CEE), as soon as adequate survey data have been gathered to provide a sound basis for description and include comment by SCAR where appropriate. Stewardship for the future is best addressed by establishing a dynamic multinational approach and specific scientific archive that preserves and quantifies pertinent information associated with current scientific research, nationally and internationally (Recommendations 5, 11, 12, 13). Maintaining detailed information about activities associated with these environments is a requirement of the Antarctic Treaty protocol and the committee hopes that information regarding drilling components, such as the microbial content of drilling fluids and any material components that may influence future research will be an important part of the stewardship for the exploration of subglacial aquatic environments.

The exploration of subglacial aquatic environments is in its initial stages, with fundamental questions remaining to be answered about these unique environments. Much debate and speculation have occurred based on the limited data available; no definitive answers will be forthcoming until these environments are sampled directly. The existence of these environments on the Antarctic continent makes them a part of the common heritage of all humankind. Accordingly, the management of subglacial aquatic environments requires responsible environmental stewardship while allowing field research in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty. Although this study is being produced by a U.S. scientific advisory body, and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) requested this study to guide scientific programs originating in the United States, the committee hopes that its multinational makeup will be recognized and that the recommendations in this report will serve as a basis for broad international discussion about environmental stewardship for the exploration of subglacial aquatic environments.


(1) Management of the subglacial aquatic environments via the Committee for Environmental Protection and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research; (2) continuing stewardship of these environments through the processes of the Antarctic Treaty, and the formal request that specific subglacial aquatic environments be designated as Antarctic Specially Protected Areas, either for long-term conservation or for agreed scientific research; and (3) the scientific project review and approval process involving national authorities and international oversight through the CEP.

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