Predicting the subsequent wildlife “invasions” heading for Antarctica

A brand new research undertaken by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the UK Centre for Ecology and Conservation (UKCEH) and a workforce of worldwide scientists supplies an inventory of 13 species most probably to threaten biodiversity and ecosystems within the Antarctic Peninsula area.

Regardless of its distant location, the Antarctic remains to be susceptible to invasions of non-native species which may have disastrous results on the native wildlife.

The goal of the research is to offer a baseline for all operators within the area to look out how they may forestall the unfold.

“The Antarctica Peninsula area is by far the busiest and most visited a part of Antarctica because of rising tourism and scientific analysis actions,” says lead creator Dr Kevin Hughes, an environmental researcher at BAS.

“Non-native species can be transported to Antarctica by many different means.  Visitors can carry seeds and non-sterile soil attached to their clothing and footwear. Imported cargo, vehicles and fresh food supplies can hide species, including insects, plants and even rats and mice. Marine species present a particular problem as they can be transported to Antarctica attached to ship hulls. They can be very difficult to remove once established.”

Antarctica’s habitats are susceptible to invasive species. © Okay Hughes/British Antarctic Survey

103 species, at the moment absent within the area, have been recognized as related for overview, with 13 species recognized as presenting a excessive danger of invading the Antarctic Peninsula area.

“Marine invertebrates such as mussels and crabs are top of the list of species considered most likely to invade the Antarctic Peninsula region, but flowering plants such as button weeds, and mites and springtails were also identified,” says BAS marine biologist and co-author Dr David Barnes.

“We know mussels can survive in polar waters, and can spread easily.  When they establish they can dominate life by smothering the native marine animals that live on the seabed.”

Mussels. © D Barnes/British Antarctic Survey

Some invasive species have already established themselves close to analysis stations and customer websites. Eradication of invasive species is feasible however has confirmed tough and expensive.

The research highlights the anticipated improve in depth, range and distribution of human actions mixed with local weather change may assist any launched species set up and unfold additional leading to unfavorable penalties for the biodiversity of the entire continent.

Professor Helen Roy, an ecologist at UKCEH who oversaw the research, says:

“It is critical to ensure that comprehensive biosecurity checks are implemented by all visitors coming to the area to prevent invasive non-native species getting to Antarctica in the first place.  Only then will we be able to reduce the risks and protect these amazing, but vulnerable Antarctic communities from the threat of invasive non-native species.”

The 13 species most probably to impression the Antarctic Peninsula area within the subsequent 10 years:

  1. Chilean mussel, Mytilus chilensis (marine invertebrate)
  2. Widespread blue mussel, Mytilus edulis (marine invertebrate)
  3. Springtail sp, Protaphorura fimata (terrestrial invertebrate)
  4. Mite sp, Nanorchestes antarcticus (terrestrial invertebrate)
  5. Flattened crab, Halicarcinus planatus (marine invertebrate)
  6. Sea vase, Ciona intestinalis (marine invertebrate)
  7. Buttonweed sp, Leptinella scariosa (terrestrial plant)
  8. Colonial Ascidian, Botryllus schlosseri (marine invertebrate)
  9. European shore crab, Carcinus maenas (marine invertebrate)
  10. Asian kelp, Undaria pinnatifida (marine algae)
  11. Buttonweed sp, Leptinella plumosa (terrestrial plant)
  12. Parchment worm, Chaetopterus variopedatus (marine invertebrate)
  13. Mediterranean mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis (marine invertebrate)

Read the full paper in Global Change Biology.

Principal picture: A chinstrap penguin and a gentoo penguin in Antarctica. © Emiliano Lasalvia/NurPhoto/Getty

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Kristina Turner

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