Introduced species infiltrate early stages of succession after glacial retreat on sub-Antarctic South Georgia

Biological invasions are one of the main drivers of global biodiversity decline. At the same time, glacial retreat induced by climate warming is occurring at an alarming rate across the globe, threatening unique taxa and ecosystems. However, we know little about how introduced species contribute to the dynamics of colonisation in newly-deglaciated forelands. To answer this question, detailed inventories of plant and invertebrate communities were undertaken during two summer field seasons in the forelands of three tidewater and three inland glaciers that are retreating on the sub-Antarctic Island of South Georgia. The vascular plant communities present included a large proportion of South Georgia’s native flora. As expected, plant richness and cover increased with time since deglaciation along a deglaciation chronosequence. Introduced plants were well represented in the study sites and two species (Poa annua and Cerastium fontanum) were amongst the earliest and most frequent colonisers of recently-deglaciated areas (occurring on more than 75% of transects surveyed). Introduced arthropods were also present around tidewater glaciers, including an important predatory species (Merizodus soledadinus) with known detrimental impacts on native invertebrate communities. Our study provides a rare and detailed picture of developing novel communities along a deglaciation chronosequence in the sub-Antarctic. Introduced species are able to track glacial retreat on South Georgia, indicating that further local colonisation and spread are inevitable as the region’s climate continues to warm.


Publication status:
Authors: Tichit, P., Brickle, P., Newton, R.J., Convey, P. ORCIDORCID record for P. Convey, Dawson, W.

On this site: Peter Convey
28 March, 2024
Neobiota / 92
26pp / 85-110
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