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Aliens in Antarctica

imageAs human travel continues to increase, the impact of the non-native (alien) species that they often accidentally carry with them on ecosystems across the globe is becoming one of the major environmental challenges of the 21st Century. The impact of these alien species ranges from minor transient introductions to substantial loss of biodiversity and ecosystem changes. The Antarctic is not immune from the risk of invasive species, although to date impacts have been restricted to the milder sub-Antarctic islands. But as parts of the continent warm, it will become easier for non-native species to gain a foothold. It is also now easier for humans (and their unintended living cargo) to travel to and around the Antarctic than it ever has been, and many more people are doing so. Focusing on the annual migration of scientists and tourists to the Antarctic in 2007, this project will take samples from clothing and equipment to provide a unique snapshot of the number of spores, seeds, invertebrates and eggs transported to the continent: the first time that an assessment of the extent of transfer of alien species into an entire biome has ever been made.

Aliens in Antarctica General Info (PDF)

Data from: Dr. D Bergstrom, Australian Antarctic Division, redrawn with permission

Example: An Alien on sub-Antarctic Heard Island

Annual Poa (Poa annua), is a grass, native to Europe. The grass has been unintentionally distributed by man to many other places on the globe and has now a cosmopolitan distribution. It has been found on many sub-Antarctic islands. On Marion Island the species is spreading vigorously and is outcompeting the native vegetation. On Heard Island it was initially recorded in 1987 in two recently deglaciated areas not previously exposed to human visitation, while at the same time being absent from known sites of past human habitation. Consequently, it is thought to have been naturally introduced, possibly from the