Evaluation of non-native species policy development and implementation within the Antarctic Treaty area
Antarctic non-native species legislation is contained within the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, with 2016 marking the 25th anniversary of its adoption. We take this opportunity to evaluate the Antarctic Treaty signatory Parties' collective development and implementation of non-native species policy. In general, scientific and policy outputs have increased in the past decade. However, data detailing Parties' current implementation of biosecurity practices are not readily available. Little widespread, internationally coordinated or systematic monitoring of non-native species establishment has occurred, but available data suggest that establishment of non-native micro-invertebrates may be greatly underestimated. Several recent small-scale plant eradications have been successful, although larger-scale eradications present a greater challenge due to seed bank formation. Invertebrate establishment within research station buildings presents an increasing problem, with mixed eradication success to date. The opportunity now exists to build on earlier successes, such as the ‘CEP Non-native Species Manual’, towards the development of a comprehensive response strategy based upon the principles of prevention, monitoring and response, and applicable to all Antarctic environments. To help facilitate this we identify areas requiring further research and policy development, such as to reduce anthropogenic transfer of indigenous Antarctic species between distinct biogeographic regions, avoid microbial contamination of pristine areas and limit introduction of non-native marine species. A response protocol is proposed for use following the discovery of a potential non-native species within the Antarctica Treaty area, which includes recommendations concerning Parties' initial response and any subsequent eradication or control measures.