Nav: Home

Antarctica: the final frontier for marine biological invasions?

April 24, 2019

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. The research is an important step in the quest to understand whether invasive species, introduced by shipping, will find the Antarctic marine environment more hospitable as Antarctica's climate changes.

Analysis of ship location records, scientific databases and reports by researchers from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the University of Cambridge reveal that ship traffic in Antarctic waters has increased up to 10-fold since 1960s. This could mean that there is a greater risk that animals and plants, such as mussels and seaweed, could be transported to Antarctica.

The marine ecosystem in the Southern Ocean became largely isolated when the circumpolar current formed 15-30 million years ago. The region is considered to be biologically unique and conservation of Antarctic ecosystems is a global priority. Invasive species have the potential to alter the balance between species. In other parts of the world this has led to the collapse of fisheries and diminished ecosystem services.

This work provides the first holistic view of the risk of non-native species to the Antarctic marine environment. It informs future conservation management and policy.

Arlie McCarthy, lead author and marine ecologist at British Antarctic Survey and the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, says:

"We know that at present physical barriers, such as sea ice cover, ocean currents and water temperature, prevent non-native species establishing themselves in marine ecosystems around Antarctica. However, we need to understand the wider implications of changing environmental conditions and increased ship activity. Our study will help us determine the scale of the risk.

We know that some invasive species such as mussels, tunicates, bryozoans, and crabs that live on ship hulls have been observed in the Southern Ocean. There is no confirmed record of these becoming established as a population as yet but this is a threat for the future."

Very few studies of 'hull fouling' on Antarctic-going vessels have been carried out. Professor Lloyd Peck of British Antarctic Survey says:

"This work is an important early step towards protecting the unique biodiversity living on the seabed around Antarctica from human-introduced non-native species. Before effective measures can be taken, the risk must be quantified.

We need much more understanding of these issues and more effort to gauge the risks and develop the best conservation measures we can to at least try and minimise any future biodiversity losses in the Antarctic marine environment."

Dr David Aldridge, the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge says:

"Invasive species are recognised as one of the biggest drivers of global biodiversity loss. While life in Antarctica may have once been relatively protected from the invasion of non-native marine species, our study reveals that human-mediated global change is increasing the likelihood of exposing life in the Southern Ocean to new and unprecedented challenges".
-end-
Antarctica: the final frontier for marine biological invasions by Arlie H. McCarthy, Lloyd S Peck, Kevin A Hughes, David C Aldridge is published in Global Change Biologydoi.org/10.1111/gcb.14600

Issued by the British Antarctic Survey Press Office:

Athena Dinar, British Antarctic Survey, tel: +44 (0) 223 221441; email: amdi@bas.ac.uk

Photo and video images are available on request from the Press Office.

Notes to editors

Over 180 ships visited Antarctica on over 500 voyages in the 2017/18 season, representing a 5- to 10-fold increase since the 1960s

Many factors will influence whether or not non-native species become established in the Southern Ocean. The most significant factors, based on this assessment, are climate change and increased human activity.

Current legislation to minimise the transport of non-native marine species around the world focuses on ballast water and special regulations exist for Antarctica. Biofouling on ships' hulls is an emerging a target for legislation both for Antarctica and worldwide.

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) 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.

British Antarctic Survey is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). NERC is part of UK Research and Innovation http://www.ukri.org

For more information visit http://www.bas.ac.uk

About the University of Cambridge

The mission of the University of Cambridge is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. To date, 107 affiliates of the University have won the Nobel Prize.

Founded in 1209, the University comprises 31 autonomous Colleges, which admit undergraduates and provide small-group tuition, and 150 departments, faculties and institutions. Cambridge is a global university. Its 19,000 student body includes 3,700 international students from 120 countries. Cambridge researchers collaborate with colleagues worldwide, and the University has established larger-scale partnerships in Asia, Africa and America.

The University sits at the heart of the 'Cambridge cluster', which employs 60,000 people and has in excess of £12 billion in turnover generated annually by the 4,700 knowledge-intensive firms in and around the city. The city publishes 341 patents per 100,000 residents.

For more info visit http://www.cam.ac.uk

British Antarctic Survey

Related Invasive Species Articles:

Invasive species that threaten biodiversity on the Antarctic Peninsula are identified
Mediterranean mussels, seaweed and some species of land plants and invertebrates are among the 13 species that are most likely to damage the ecosystems on the Antarctic Peninsula.
Research networks can help BRICS countries combat invasive species
BRICS countries need more networks of researchers dedicated to invasion science if they wish to curb the spread of invasive species within and outside of their borders.
Look out, invasive species: The robots are coming
Researchers published the first experiments to gauge whether biomimetic robotic fish can induce fear-related changes in mosquitofish, aiming to discover whether the highly invasive species might be controlled without toxicants or trapping methods harmful to wildlife.
Monster tumbleweed: Invasive new species is here to stay
A new species of gigantic tumbleweed once predicted to go extinct is not only here to stay -- it's likely to expand its territory.
DNA tests of UK waters could help catch invasive species early
A team of scientists led by the University of Southampton have discovered several artificially introduced species in the coastal waters of southern England, using a technique that could help the early detection of non-native species if adopted more widely.
For certain invasive species, catching infestation early pays off
An international research team led by invasion ecologist Bethany Bradley at UMass Amherst has conducted the first global meta-analysis of the characteristics and size of invasive alien species' impacts on native species as invaders become more abundant.
Study offers insight into biological changes among invasive species
A remote island in the Caribbean could offer clues as to how invasive species are able to colonise new territories and then thrive in them, a new study by the University of Plymouth suggests.
The invasive species are likely to spread to a community not adapted to climate change
Laboratory experiment to indicate how invasive species are to spread new areas.
Invasive species and habitat loss our biggest biodiversity threats
Invasive species and habitat loss are the biggest threats to Australian biodiversity, according to new research by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub in partnership with The University of Queensland.
Forget 'needle in a haystack'; try finding an invasive species in a lake
When the tiny and invasive spiny water flea began appearing in UW-Madison researchers' nets in 2009, scientists began to wonder how Lake Mendota, one of the most-studied lakes in the world, went from flea-free to infested seemingly overnight, undetected by trained technicians.
More Invasive Species News and Invasive Species 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

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Space
One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.