Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems: responses to environmental change
The consequences of climate change are exciting considerable
concern worldwide. Parts of Antarctica are facing the most rapid rates of anthropogenic climate change currently seen on the planet. This paper sets out to introduce contemporary ecosystems of the Antarctic, and the factors that have influenced them and their biodiversity over evolutionary timescales. Contemporary climate change processes significant to terrestrial biota, and
the biological consequences of these changes seen to date, are described. In general, many Antarctic terrestrial biota, when considered in isolation, possess
biological features that will permit them to take advantage of the levels of change currently being experienced. However, many organisms and communities are extremely vulnerable to the colonisation of new taxa with greater
competitive abilities or representing higher trophic levels than are currently present amongst the indigenous biota. In this context, direct human impact in the form of accidental transfer of non-indigenous species is probably the
greatest threat currently facing Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems and their biota, while climate change will also act synergistically to reduce the colonisation
and establishment hurdles faced by incoming organisms.