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Location Antarctica
Central coordinates 61o 2.09' West  62o 37.93' South
IBA criteria A4i
Area 9,034 ha
Altitude 0 - 265m
Year of IBA assessment 2015

Site description Byers Peninsula is a relatively large (6062 ha) ice-free promontory at the western extremity of Livingston Island. Byer Peninsula is designated as Antarctic Specially Protected Area No. 126. The IBA covers the same area as ASPA No. 126 and includes the ice-free ground below Rotch Dome to the west of the permanent ice margin on Livingston Island, as well as several offshore islands and ice-free areas to the east of Byers Peninsula.

Detailed information describing Byers Peninsula may be found in the ASPA No. 126 Management Plan (2002), which is summarised here. Sedimentary and fossiliferous strata are present, together with rocks of volcanic origin. Well-preserved sub-fossil whale bones occur on raised beaches. The site supports a sparse but varied flora and cyanobacteria, including several rare crytogams and the flowering plants Deschampsia antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis). At least 56 lichen species, 29 mosses, 5 hepatics and 2 phanerogams have been recorded at Byers Peninsula, making it one of the most diverse sites for terrestrial flora in maritime Antarctica. Byers Peninsula contains numerous lakes, freshwater ponds and extensive streams, some of which provide habitat for the midge Parochlus steinenii and the wingless midge Belgica antarctica occurs infrequently in moist moss on the peninsula. Byers Peninsula has a large number of historical relics from the sealing expeditions of the early 1800s.

No long term meteorological records are available for Byers Peninsula. The climate is likely to be similar to that of Base Juan Carlos I on Hurd Peninsula, which experiences a mean annual temperature of below 0ºC with temperatures rising above 0ºC for several months of each summer. Precipitation is relatively high with around 800 mm/yr, mostly falling as rain during the summer months. The peninsula is generally snow-covered except near the end of the summer. Winds prevail from the Drake Passage in the north and northwest and Bransfield Strait to the south.

The nearest permanent scientific stations to the IBA are Base Juan Carlos I (Spain) and Ohridiski (Bulgaria) on Hurd Peninsula, Livingston Island, around 30 km to the east. These stations have a capacity of 25 and 12 people respectively (COMNAP, Antarctic Facilities, accessed 10/05/2011).

Key Biodiversity This site is recognised for the high diversity of bird species breeding on ice-free areas, mainly near the coast in the west and south (ASPA No. 126 Management Plan, 2002). Approximately 1760 pairs of Antarctic tern (Sterna vittata) and 449 pairs of Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus) were breeding on Byers Peninsula in 1965 (White, 1965 cited in ASPA No. 126 Management Plan, 2002). Other confirmed breeders are the Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica), Gentoo Penguin (P. papua), Wilson’s Storm-petrel (Oceanites oceanicus), Cape Petrel (Daption capense), Southern Giant Petrel (Macronectes giganteusi), Black-bellied Storm-petrel (Fregetta tropica), Imperial Shag (Phalacrocorax atriceps), Brown Skua (Catharacta lonnbergi) and Greater Sheathbill (Chionis alba). Prions (Pachyptila sp.) and Snow Petrels (Pagodroma nivea) have been recorded on Byers Peninsula, although these species are not confirmed breeders.

Non-bird biodiversity: A large number of Southern Elephant Seals (Mirounga leonina) are known to breed and haul out on South Beaches. Over 2500 individuals were recorded in one season, one of the largest concentrations of this species in the South Shetland Islands (Torres et al. 1981 cited in ASPA No. 126 Management Plan, 2002). Non-breeding Weddell (Leptonychotes weddellii), Crabeater (Lobodon carcinophagous) and Leopard (Hydrurga leptonyx) seals occasionally haul out around the shoreline.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Antarctic Tern Sterna vittata breeding  1965  1,760 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus breeding  2009  1,884 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Byers Peninsula Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) 6,570 protected area contained by site 6,570  

Protection status ASPA No. 126

References ASPA No.126 Byers Peninsula, Livingston Island: Management Plan (2002)

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Byers Peninsula, Livingston Island. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

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