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Location Antarctica
Central coordinates 45o 38.00' West  60o 43.00' South
IBA criteria A4i, A4ii, A4iii
Area 2,198 ha
Altitude 0 - 278m
Year of IBA assessment 2011





Site description Signy Island lies 1.6 km southwest of Cape Hansen on the south coast of Coronation Island. The IBA comprises all of Signy Island and several offshore islands including Confusion Island, Oliphant Islands, Spindrift Rocks and Shagnasty Island.

Almost half of Signy Island is covered by a permanent ice cap, with the highest point on the island being Tioga Hill (278 m). The coastline is dominated by exposed crags,and rocky headlands, with intervening bouldery slopes and sizeable moss banks (Tickell 1962). There are 16 lakes on the island and several glaciers, the largest of which is McLeod Glacier which terminates on the southern coast.

Extensive Chorisodontium – Polytrichum moss turfs occur particularly on the northwest coast of Signy Island, forming primary breeding habitat for burrowing petrels (R. Fijn, pers. comm. 2011). Other flora on Signy Island includes the Antarctic hairgrass (Deschampsia antarctica) and Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis), ~50 moss species, ~12 liverworts and ~120 lichen species (BAS, Signy Island Research Station, accessed 02/09/2010). Algae and cyanobacteria have also been observed in wetter sites on the island (Broady 1979).

Signy Research Station (UK) is located midway along the eastern shoreline of Signy Island, on the southern side of Borge Bay. The facility supports mainly biological research, including for long-term ecosystem monitoring and climate studies. The station accommodates ~8 people (COMNAP, Antarctic Facilities, accessed 31/08/2010).

The winter climate on Signy Island is influenced by pack ice which extends to surround the island from the Weddell Sea. Over the summer the pack ice retreats and Signy Island has a typically maritime climate. Mean summer air temperatures are between –2°C to 3°C, whilst during winter the mean monthy air temperature ranges from –2°C to –17° C (ASPA No. 114 Management Plan, 2003). Meteorological records for Signy Station show strong winds are frequent, prevailing from the west (BAS, Signy Island Research Station, accessed: 02/09/2010). The minimum winter temperature on record is –39.3°C whilst in summer, temperatures range from – 7°C to 19.8°C.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Wilson's Storm-petrel Oceanites oceanicus breeding  1968  200,000 breeding pairs  A4ii  Least Concern 
Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus breeding  2005-2006  2,351 breeding pairs  A4ii  Least Concern 
Phalacrocorax atriceps breeding  1988  801 breeding pairs  A4i  Not Recognised 
Catharacta lonnbergi breeding  2003-2005  100 breeding pairs  A4ii  Not Recognised 
A4iii Species group - seabirds breeding  1968-2006  207,152 breeding pairs  A4iii   

Other biodiversity Antarctic Fur Seals (Arctocephalus gazella) haul out in large groups around the coast of Signy Island, concentrated on the eastern and southern coastline, with an estimated 12,245 individuals present in February 2009 (BAS unpublished data, 2009), although numbers vary and reached over 21,000 individuals in 1994 (Waluda et al. 2009). Weddell Seals breed on the sea-ice around Signy Island over the winter months, and Southern Elephant Seals (Mirounga leonina) have been observed pupping in spring (BAS, Signy Island Research Station, accessed 22/09/2010). In 2009, 309 Southern Elephant Seals and 5 Weddell Seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) were observed hauled out on Signy Island (BAS unpublished data, 2010).

Protection status None

References British Antarctic Survey, Signy Island Research Station. URL:http://www.Antarctica.ac.uk/living_and_working/research_stations/signy/. Accessed: 02/09/2010.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Signy Island. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/09/2014

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