Nav: Home

Predicting non-native invasions in Antarctica

January 13, 2020

A new study identifies the non-native species most likely to invade the Antarctic Peninsula region over the next decade. It provides a baseline for all operators in the region to look at mitigation measures. The study is published in the journal Global Change Biology (13th January 2020).

Fragile polar biological communities in marine and terrestrial Antarctic habitats are vulnerable to invasion by species from other parts of the world. In some cases they can have devastating effects. Lead author Dr Kevin Hughes, an environmental researcher at British Antarctic Survey (BAS), worked with an international team of researchers to identify which non-native species are most likely to threaten biodiversity and ecosystems in the Antarctic Peninsula region.

The team studied hundreds of academic papers, reports and databases, to find species most likely to invade the Antarctic Peninsula region. Of the 103 species considered in detail, 13 were identified as most likely to invade.

Dr Hughes says: "The Antarctica Peninsula region is by far the busiest and most visited part of Antarctica due to growing tourism and scientific research activities. 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."

BAS marine biologist and co-author Dr David Barnes says:

"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 (e.g. Leptinella scariosa) and mites and springtails were also identified. 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."

Some of the sub-Antarctic islands such as Marion Island and South Georgia have already been invaded by rats, mice or other vertebrates. However, this is not expected to happen on the Antarctic Peninsula anytime soon.

Professor Helen Roy, an ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology who oversaw the study, says:

"We think the conditions in the Antarctic Peninsula region will remain too extreme to allow rodents to colonise outside. However, rats and mice could survive by hiding within research station buildings, so everyone needs to remain vigilant for droppings and gnaw marks".

Some non-native species have already established themselves near research stations and visitor sites. Eradication of invasive species is possible but has proven difficult and costly. Professor Roy continues:

"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."

This study was funded by the UK Government through the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC-UKRI), and includes scientists from Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Ireland, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom (including its Overseas Territories of the British Antarctic Territory, Falkland Islands, South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands and Tristan da Cunha) and the United States.
-end-
Invasive non-native species likely to threaten biodiversity and ecosystems in the Antarctic Peninsula region by Kevin A. Hughes, Oliver L. Pescott, Jodey Peyton, Tim Adriaens, Elizabeth J. Cottier-Cook, Gillian Key, Wolfgang Rabitsch, Elena Tricarico, David K. A. Barnes, Naomi Baxter, Mark Belchier, Denise Blake, Peter Convey, Wayne Dawson, Danielle Frohlich, Lauren Gardiner, Pablo Gonzalez-Moreno, Ross James, Christopher Malumphy, Stephanie Martin, Angeliki F. Martinou, Dan Minchin, Andrea Monaco, Niall Moore, Simon A. Morley, Katherine Ross, Jonathan Shanklin, Katharine Turvey, David Vaughan, Alexander G. C. Vaux, Victoria Werenkraut, Ian J. Winfield and Helen E. Roy is published in the journal Global Change Biology.

Notes for Editors:

Issued by the British Antarctic Survey Press Office.
Athena Dinar amdi@bas.ac.uk tel. +44 (0) 1223 221441, mobile: +44 (0)7909 008516

Images are available on request.

Table 1. List of the invaders most likely to impact the Antarctic Peninsula region in the next 10 years.

No. | Species | Common name | Broad Group
  1. Mytilus chilensis | Chilean mussel | Marine invertebrate
  2. Mytilus edulis | Common blue mussel | Marine invertebrate
  3. Protaphorura fimata | Springtail | Terrestrial invertebrate
  4. Nanorchestes antarcticus | Mite | Terrestrial invertebrate
  5. Halicarcinus planatus | Flattened crab | Marine invertebrate
  6. Ciona intestinalis | Sea vase | Marine invertebrate
  7. Leptinella scariosa | A buttonweed | Terrestrial plant
  8. Botryllus schlosseri | Colonial Ascidian | Marine invertebrate
  9. Carcinus maenas | European shore crab | Marine invertebrate
  10. Undaria pinnatifida | Asian kelp | Marine algae
  11. Leptinella plumosa | A buttonweed | Terrestrial plant
  12. Chaetopterus variopedatus | Parchment worm | Marine invertebrate
  13. Mytilus galloprovincialis | Mediterranean mussel | Marine invertebrate
  • Antarctic is governed through consensus by an international consortium of nations through the Antarctic Treaty System.
  • Nations operating scientific programmes and regulating tourism and fishing activities in Antarctica are required to maintaining high environmental standards.
  • The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty prohibits the introduction of any non-native species, unless if is for scientific purposes and a permit has been issued.
  • The British Antarctic Survey has put in place biosecurity checks and measures to reduce the risk of non-native introductions.
British Antarctic Survey (BAS), an institute of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), delivers and enables world-leading interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions. Its skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic, work together to deliver research that uses the Polar Regions to advance our understanding of Earth as a sustainable planet. Through its extensive logistic capability and know-how BAS facilitates access for the British and international science community to the UK polar research operation. Numerous national and international collaborations, combined with an excellent infrastructure help sustain a world leading position for the UK in Antarctic affairs. For more information visit http://www.bas.ac.uk

The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) is a centre for excellence in environmental science across water, land and air. Our 500 scientists work to understand the environment, how it sustains life and the human impact on it - so that together, people and nature can prosper. We have a long history of investigating, monitoring and modelling environmental change, and our science makes a positive difference in the world. The issues our science addresses include: air pollution, biodiversity, biosecurity, chemical risks, extreme weather events, droughts, floods, greenhouse gas emissions, land use, soil health, sustainable agriculture, sustainable ecosystems, sustainable macronutrient use, and water resources management.

The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology is a strategic delivery partner for the Natural Environment Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation. http://www.ceh.ac.uk@UK_CEH

British Antarctic Survey

Related Antarctica Articles:

Predicting non-native invasions in Antarctica
A new study identifies the non-native species most likely to invade the Antarctic Peninsula region over the next decade.
Persistent drizzle at sub-zero temps in Antarctica
When the temperature drops below freezing, snow and ice are expected to follow.
Antarctica: the final frontier for marine biological invasions?
A new study looking at the implications of increased shipping activity and the impact on Antarctic marine biodiversity is published this week in the journal Global Change Biology.
Human 'footprint' on Antarctica measured for first time
The full extent of the human 'footprint' on Antarctica has been revealed for the first time by new IMAS-led research which used satellite images to measure stations, huts, runways, waste sites and tourist camps at 158 locations.
Iguana-sized dinosaur cousin discovered in Antarctica
Scientists have discovered the fossils of an iguana-sized reptile, which they named 'Antarctic king,' that lived at the South Pole 250 million years ago (it used to be warmer).
Scientists drill to record depths in West Antarctica
A team of scientists and engineers has for the first time successfully drilled over two kilometres through the ice sheet in West Antarctica using hot water.
Is Antarctica becoming more like Greenland?
Antarctica is high and dry and mostly bitterly cold, and it's easy to think of its ice and snow as locked away in a freezer, protected from melt except around its low-lying coasts and floating ice shelves.
Retracing Antarctica's glacial past
More than 26,000 years ago, sea level was much lower than it is today partly because the ice sheets that jut out from the continent of Antarctica were enormous and covered by grounded ice -- ice that was fully attached to the seafloor.
New study reveals how foreign kelp surfed to Antarctica
A research team led by the Australian National University (ANU) has found the first proof that Antarctica is not isolated from the rest of the Earth, with the discovery that foreign kelp had drifted 20,000 kilometers before surfing to the continent's icy shores.
New study explains Antarctica's coldest temperatures
Tiny valleys near the top of Antarctica's ice sheet reach temperatures of nearly -100 degrees Celsius, according to a new study published this week in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters.
More Antarctica News and Antarctica Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.