Determining the native/non-native status of newly discovered terrestrial and freshwater species in Antarctica – current knowledge, methodology and management action

Continental Antarctic terrestrial and freshwater environments currently have few established non-native species compared to the sub-Antarctic islands and other terrestrial ecosystems on Earth. This is due to a unique combination of factors including Antarctica’s remoteness, harsh climate, physical geography and brief history of human activity. However, recent increases in national operator and tourism activities increase the risk of non-native propagules reaching Antarctica, while climate change may make successful establishment more likely. The frequency and probability of human-assisted transfer mechanisms appear to far outweigh those of natural propagule introductions by wind, water, birds and marine mammals. A dilemma for scientists and environmental managers, which is exacerbated by a poor baseline knowledge of Antarctic biodiversity, is how to determine the native/non-native status of a newly discovered species which could be (a) a previously undiscovered long-term native species, (b) a recent natural colonist or (c) a human-mediated introduction. A correct diagnosis is crucial as the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty dictates dramatically different management responses depending on native/non-native status: native species and recent natural colonists should be protected and conserved, while non-native introductions should be eradicated or controlled. We review current knowledge on how available evidence should be used to differentiate between native and non-native species, and discuss and recommend issues that should be considered by scientists and managers upon discovery of a species apparently new to the Antarctic region.


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Authors: Hughes, Kevin A. ORCIDORCID record for Kevin A. Hughes, Convey, Peter ORCIDORCID record for Peter Convey

On this site: Kevin Hughes, Peter Convey
1 January, 2012
Journal of Environmental Management / 93
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