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Location Antarctica
Central coordinates 64o 6.00' West  64o 46.00' South
IBA criteria A4ii
Area 40 ha
Altitude 0 - 48m
Year of IBA assessment 2011

Site description Litchfield Island lies less than a kilometer to the south of Norsel Point, Anvers Island, at the western extent of Arthur Harbour. The IBA is defined by the boundary of Antarctic Specially Protected Area No. 113 Litchfield Island, which was designated to protect an unusually rich and diverse terrestrial habitat, with a wide range of wildlife (ASPA No. 113 Management Plan, 2009).

The geology of Litchfield Island comprises tonalites, granites and other volcanics (ASPA No. 113 Management Plan, 2009). Relief is varied with numerous low summits, the highest of which is 48 m, and there are several small ponds on the island. In the 1960s, one finest examples of maritime Antarctic vegetation existed on Litchfield Island, including an extensive moss carpet dominated by Warnstorfia laculosa, and several areas covered by Polytrichum strictum and Chorisodontium aciphyllum (ASPA No. 113 Management Plan, 2009). By 2001, Antarctic Fur Seals (Arctocephalus gazella) had severely reduced the abundance and variety of vegetation on Litchfield Island’s lower slopes. However, on higher slopes, vegetation remains intact and recent declines in the population of Antarctic Fur Seals may be facilitating regrowth of vegetation on previously damaged slopes (W. Fraser, pers. comm, 2009). Other species described on Litchfield Island include the two species of flowering plants found in Antarctica: Deschampsia Antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis.

The nearest scientific station is Palmer (US), ~1.5 km to the east. See Ant012 for more information on Palmer Station and local climate.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
South Polar Skua Catharacta maccormicki breeding  2009  max 50 breeding pairs  A4ii  Least Concern 

Other biodiversity Antarctic Fur Seals (Arctocephalus gazella) commonly haul out on Litchfield Island from February onwards each year, although numbers have reportedly decreased in the Arthur Harbour area in recent years (Siniff et al. 2008). Elephant Seals (Mirounga leonina) haul out along the shoreline of Litchfield Island for much of the year and Weddell Seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) are also occasionally observed. Crabeater Seals (Lobodon carcinophaga) and Leopard Seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) are regularly observed on ice floes near the IBA (ASPA No. 113 Management Plan, 2009). See Ant 012 for information on other species observed nearby.

Protection status ASPA No.113

References ASPA No. 113 Litchfield Island: Management Plan; ASMA No. 7 Palmer Basin and Southwest Anvers Island: Management Plan (2008); Palmer LTER project URL:, accessed: 04/08/2010.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Litchfield Island. Downloaded from on 20/09/2014

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