Antarctic landscape

The British Antarctic Territory (BAT) is an area of Antarctica which is administered by the United Kingdom. It is a region mostly formed by offshore islands, situated south of 60°S latitude and between longitudes 20°W and 80°W. Although the area was explored much earlier by adventurous travelers and whalers the territory was only officially formed in 1962. There are no native inhabitants in BAT and the islands are mainly used to give access to the scientific research stations in the Antarctic.

Most of the landmass in the Antarctica is permanently covered with ice. However, life is still present in the 1% of the region that is ice and snow free. In these areas, there are large numbers of seals, penguins and birds, as well as a variety of mosses, liverworts, lichens and fungi. According to the British Antarctic Survey, there are, in total, around 100 species of mosses, 25 species of liverworts, and 300 to 400 species of lichens in the Antarctica. They can tolerate low temperatures and dehydration, being specially adapted to surviving in extreme environments. Trees and shrubs do not grow in these conditions. There are only two species of flowering plants that occur in the Antarctica, the Antarctic hair grass (Deschampsia antarctica) and Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis). These arise along the warmer parts of the Antarctica Peninsula and in the South Orkney Islands and the South Shetland Islands.

Moss carpet growing amongst ice Colobanthus quitensis and Deschampsia antarctica growing side by side Conservation challenges

The Antarctic Territory is protected by the Antarctic Treaty since 1961 and several islands are designated protected areas. However, human activities such as whale and seal hunts and the more recent waves of tourists unintentionally carried exotic species into these regions. Invasive species are the biggest threat to the native flora of Antarctica and we should ensure that we can minimize the associated risks.

© Copyright Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Britsh Antarctic Survey

Kew's UK Overseas Territories team collaborates with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) on plant conservation activities.

Progress in implementing the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation Targets

  • Target 1
  • Vascular species checklist complete
  • Target 2
  • Red List evaluation in progress
  • Target 3
  • No current activity
  • Target 4
  • Co-ordinated internationally
  • Target 5
  • Important Plant Areas not yet identified
  • Target 6
  • No production land
  • Target 7
  • The Antarctic Territory is protected by the Antarctic Treaty since 1961; Several islands are designated protected areas
  • Target 8
  • Seeds of the two vascular plants in long-term storage in the Millennium Seed Bank; both species in cultivation at RBG Kew
  • Target 9
  • No activity
  • Target 10
  • A checklist of non-native and invasive species compiled; draft invasive species strategy for South Atlantic UKOTs under review
  • Target 11
  • No plant species in international trade
  • Target 12
  • No plant-based products produced
  • Target 13
  • No current indigenous use of plant products
  • Target 14
  • BAS facilitates scientific research on the Antarctic continent to scientists from over thirty countries
  • Target 15
  • Herbarium facility maintained by BAS; BAS herbarium digitised by the UKOTs Programme at RBG Kew in 2009
  • Target 16
  • EU-funded South Atlantic Invasive Species Project provided a regional network for conservation initiatives and invasive species control

    Please use the links below to see further details on conservation activities in the UK Overseas Territories


    Ascension Island


    British Indian Ocean Territory

    British Virgin Islands

    Cayman Islands

    Falkland Islands



    Pitcairn Islands

    South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

    Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus

    St. Helena

    Tristan da Cunha

    Turks and Caicos Islands

    Homepage of the UKOTs Online Herbarium

    Site published by
    Name: UK Overseas Territories Science Team
    Institute: Royal Botanic Garden Kew
    Sponsor: Overseas Territories Environment Programme

    Site published by
    UK Overseas Territories Science Team, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
    Please cite as
    UKOTs Online Herbarium (2011). Published on the internet at (date accessed).
    For further information
    Please contact Kew UKOTs Team

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