AQ054
Byers Peninsula, Livingston Island


Country/territory: Antarctica

IBA Criteria met: A4i (2015)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 9,034 ha


Site description

Byers Peninsula is a relatively large (6062 ha) ice-free promontory at the western extremity of Livingston Island. Byers Peninsula is designated as Antarctic Specially Protected Area No. 126. The IBA qualifies on the basis of the Antarctic Tern (Sterna vittata) and Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus) colonies present. The IBA covers the same area as ASPA No. 126, and includes the ice-free peninsula and part of the permanent ice cap 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 cryptograms and the flowering plants Antarctic Hairgrass (Deschampsia antarctica) and Antarctic Pearlwort (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 several native midges. Byers Peninsula has a large number of historical relics from the sealing expeditions of the early 1800s.

The climate at Byers Peninsula is likely to be similar to that of Base Juan Carlos I on Hurd Peninsula, which experiences a mean annual temperature of below 0°C, with temperatures rising above 0°C for several months each summer. Precipitation is around 800 mm/yr, mostly falling as rain during summer. The peninsula is generally snow-covered except near the end of the summer. Winds prevail from the north and northwest and from the south.

The nearest permanent scientific stations to the IBA are Base Juan Carlos I (ESP) and Ohridiski (BGR) 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 and 449 pairs of Kelp Gull were breeding on Byers Peninsula in 1965 (White, 1965 cited in ASPA No. 126 Management Plan, 2002), and Gil-Delago et al. (2012) estimated approximately 1884 breeding pairs of Kelp Gull in 2009. 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 giganteus ), Black-bellied Storm-petrel ( Fregetta tropica ), Imperial Shag ( Phalacrocorax [ atriceps ] bransfieldensis ), Brown Skua ( Catharacta antarctica ) and Snowy Sheathbill ( Chionis albus ). 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 carcinophagus) and Leopard (Hydrurga leptonyx) seals occasionally haul out around the shoreline.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Byers Peninsula, Livingston Island. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/02/2023.