South Africa has a longstanding engagement in Antarctic research and exploration. The International Geophysical year (1957 to 1958) included South African scientists; the bases in Antarctica and on Marion and Gough Islands have been active for more than half a century; and South Africa was a founder member of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). south African researchers have participated in both national and international Antarctic expeditions for more than 60 years and this participation has reflected the changing dynamics of South African society
In the past, South Africa's Antarctic research had four major components: biological sciences, earth sciences, oceanography and physical sciences. However, a new Antarctic Research Strategy for South Africa has been developed which focuses on five distinctive themes. Each theme is concerned with understanding environmental variability which has major impacts on human quality of life. These impacts range from the effects of "space weather" on long distance communications and power supply, to the impacts of climate change on natural resources.
Understanding this natural variability and how it is changing over time is a pressing global concern.
In keeping with South Africa's strengths in the geosciences, physical sciences and life sciences, three key research themes are structured around variability in these systems. A fourth theme explores the impact of the human presence en Antarctica, while a fifth is concerned with the history, sociology and politics of South Africa's long-term presence in the region.
The new research themes for SANAP are:...
1. Antarctica: A window into Geospace
to increase understanding of the physics of geospace through the coordinated use of the SANAE IV base as a well resounded, ground-based observatory.
to educate the next generation of physicists working in this field.
to extend cooperation to scientists from neighbouring countries with a view to raising the general lever of scientific activity in this field
2. Climate Variability: Past, Present and Future
to investigate the interactions between physical and biological oceanographic processes and global climate;
to examine the interactions between plate tectonic processes, degassing of the planet (and thus liberation of greenhouse gases), Paleocene chemistry (including sedimentation and economically important metal deposits), climate change and biogeography
3. Biodiversity Responses to Earth System Variability
to understand the changes that occur in marine and terrestrial biodiversity over time and space;
to understand biological responses to environmental variability at the level of the individual, as well as the ecosystem level;
to differentiate between the effects of natural and human induced influences on biodiversity.
4. Engineering a Sustainable Presence in Antarctica
to develop, test and implement engineering solutions that facilitate minimal impact, maximum efficiency, and cutting-edge support for science-based activities in Antarctica;
to develop policies toe minimise the direct impact of human activities on Antarctic environments;
to provide appropriate advice for developing an integrated system of protected areas in Antarctica.
5. The History, Sociology and Politics of Antarctic Research and Exploration
The major purpose of this research theme is to explore the historical sociological and political dimensions of South African Antarctic research and explorations. the theme also serves as a platform to broaden scholarship and capacity in Antarctic research, both in terms of the disciplinary base as well as the researcher communities and individuals who actively engage with Antarctica