Non-native species in Antarctic terrestrial environments: how climate change and increasing human activity are compounding the threat of invasion
Antarctic terrestrial biodiversity is simple compared with other regions of the Earth, with many higher taxonomic groups not represented owing to the continent’s isolation, the severe climatic conditions and the relative scarcity of habitat suitable for colonization. So far, Antarctic biodiversity has been little affected by non-native species introductions owing to: (i) the late arrival of humans on the continent (c. 1820); (ii) the overall low intensity of human activity relative to other continents; and (iii) the concentration of most of that activity around a relatively limited number of research stations and tourist sites, particularly on and near to the Antarctic Peninsula and in the McMurdo region of Victoria Land. However, human activity is increasing, and Antarctica is increasingly vulnerable to both the human-mediated importation of non-native species and the redistribution of indigenous Antarctic species between biologically distinct areas within the continent. The Antarctic Peninsula warmed rapidly during the second half of the 20th century, and parts of the Antarctic continent are now starting to warm, with more widespread and substantial change expected over the next century. Consequently, terrestrial communities are increasingly vulnerable as climate change increases the risk of non-native species establishment and dispersal. In this chapter we describe the legislation and practices relating to non-native species in Antarctica, and present examples of non-native species that have already become established and details of the resulting management responses. We also discuss recent policy developments relating to non-native species within the Antarctic Treaty area, and suggest that more needs to be done by the national Antarctic programs to implement effective biosecurity practices and eradicate existing non-native colonists before fragile Antarctic communities are changed irreversibly.
Authors: Hughes, Kevin A. ORCID record for Kevin A. Hughes, Convey, Peter ORCID record for Peter Convey