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Accidental transfer of non-native soil organisms into Antarctica on construction vehicles



Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems currently include very few non-native species, due to the continent’s extreme isolation from other landmasses. However, the indigenous biota is vulnerable to human-mediated introductions of non-native species. In December 2005, four construction vehicles were imported by contractors to the British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Rothera Research Station (Antarctic Peninsula) from the Falkland Islands and South Georgia (South Atlantic) on board RRS James Clark Ross. The vehicles were contaminated with >132kg of non-Antarctic soil that contained viable non-native angiosperms, bryophytes, micro-invertebrates, nematodes, fungi, bacteria, and c. 40,000 seeds and numerous moss propagules. The incident was a significant contravention of BAS operating procedures, the UK Antarctic Act (1994) and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (1998), which all prohibit the introduction of non-native species to Antarctica without an appropriate permit. The introduction of this diverse range of species poses a significant threat to local biodiversity should any of the species become established, particularly as the biota of sub-Antarctic South Georgia is likely to include many species with appropriate pre-adaptations facilitating the colonisation of more extreme Antarctic environments. Once the incident was discovered, the imported soil was removed immediately from Antarctica and destroyed. Vehicle cleaning and transportation guidelines have been revised to enhance the biosecurity of BAS operations, and to minimise the risk of similar incidents occurring. KeywordsAntarctica-Cargo-Human impact-Invasion-Biosecurity-Non-native species-Sub-Antarctic-Vehicles
Credit: Ross Sea Region 2001: A State of the Environment Report for the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica
14 DECEMBER 2007
“The protection of the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems and the intrinsic value
of Antarctica, including its wilderness and aesthetic values and its value as an area for the conduct of scientific
research, in particular research essential to understanding the global environment, shall be fundamental
considerations in the planning and conduct of all activities in the Antarctic Treaty area”
Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Treaty. Article 3: Environmental Principles
Biological invasions through the introduction of non-native species (NNS) such as microbes, fungi, plants and
animals are considered globally as one of the most significant threats to biodiversity (McKinney & Lockwood
1999 cited in Frenot et al. 2005). Almost every continent and ecosystem type on earth has been affected by
NNS often resulting in irreversible changes to the structure and functioning of ecosystems.
Antarctica, with no indigenous population, remained free of human visitation until approximately two
centuries ago. Isolated from the rest of the world through its climate and geography, the Continent, which
contains less than 2% ice free areas (Potter 2006), has developed a series of simple (some of which have been
described as the simplest on the planet [Convey, 2007]), yet interdependent eco-systems and is one of the last
continents where biogeographic boundaries still exist (De Poorter & Gilbert et al. 2006).
Research to date indicates the vast majority of the Continent has escaped biological invasions. However,
increasing human visitation and activity both to, from and within, the Continent (predominantly by national
Antarctic programmes and tourists) combined with current climatic trends means there is an increasing
awareness by Treaty Parties of the risk of NNS unintentionally being introduced and becoming established on
the Continent. Another significant risk recently identified by Treaty Parties is the impacts of intra-continental
contamination whereby native species have the potential to be unintentionally transferred across natural
biogeography boundaries within the Continent into ecosystems where they do not naturally exist (De Poorter
& Gilbert et al. 2006)
This paper is a review of how Antarctic Treaty Parties have addressed the issue of the [unintentional]
introduction of NNS within the Treaty Area through Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings over the past
decade. It also includes a case study of how a Treaty Party member, the Australian Antarctic Division, is
addressing the issue as part of their obligations under the Treaty.
It is limited to a review of NNS being unintentionally introduced to the Antarctic Continent through human
activity but does not address the issue of unintentional introduction of NNS to the marine environment of the
Treaty Area (Southern Ocean).
Evidence of Biological Invasions through NNS
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) defines non-native species as species occurring by human agency in an
ecological area where it is not native(De Poorter 2007). Although there is detailed research and evidence of
the significant damage caused to the eco-systems of the sub Antarctic islands through the introduction of NNS
(Frenot et al. 2005, Bergstrom & Chown 1999) there is limited research on the subject in regards to the Treaty
Area. In 2005 Frenot et al. published the first “major summary of knowledge of alien taxa for southern, high-
latitude sub-Antarctic and Antarctic regions”. Despite noting that a comprehensive baseline biological survey
for the Continent has yet to be undertaken, the paper concluded:
The biota of some of the Continent’s ice-free areas already include alien taxa.
The recorded impacts of NNS have ranged from negligible and transient to persistent but with limited
distribution through to aggressive invasives resulting in significant consequences.
The introduction of NNS, together with the possibility of existing persistent species becoming major
invasives, while lower than elsewhere, is a significant risk.
Current climatic trends will enhance the ability of non-native species to survive in the Antarctic.
Given the increase in human activity on the Continent rigorous biosecurity measures need to be
From the limited research undertaken, it appears that the vast majority of Antarctica’s terrestrial ecosystems
(to date) appear to be relatively unaffected by NNS. Convey (2007) states as few as five non-native plants and
animals have been proven to have established within the Treaty Area, none of which can, as yet, be classified
as invasive. However, both Convey (2007) and Frenot et al. (2005) acknowledge the need for a comprehensive
baseline biological survey to be undertaken, ongoing monitoring and the introduction of practical measures to
minimize and mitigate the risks associated with the introduction of NNS.
There is also an increasing awareness amongst Treaty Parties of the potential risks associated with intra-
continental contamination which has the potential to not only impact on local ecosystems but also affect the
associated scientific values of the sites. This appears to be an issue which has only recently begun to be
discussed at Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM) and while identified as a potential risk to the
Continent’s ecosystems it appears little scientific research has been undertaken.
The Antarctic Treaty is the founding document that governs human activity in Antarctica. It is supported by
five legal instruments (four free-standing agreements and an environmental protocol) and together these
provide the legal framework for the protection of Antarctica. In addition to being bound by International Law
Treaty Parties are obligated to develop and apply legislation at a domestic level to implement their obligations
under the Treaty and its associated instruments.
From relatively early on the Treaty System has recognised the scientific values of the Continent and the
importance of the protection of the native fauna and flora. While the Treaty itself does not specifically
address environment and conservation issues, it does acknowledge the importance of the preservation and
conservation of Antarctica’s living resources” (Article IX). However, environmental and conservation issues
began to be addressed soon after the Treaty entered into force with the adoption of the Agreed Measures for
the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora in 1964. The Agreed Measures acknowledged NNS by
addressing the management of the “intentional” introduction of NNS for scientific purposes through a
permitting system and disposal requirements. The Agreed Measures were effectively replaced in 1991 by the
Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty with many of the principles outlined in the
Measures transferred to, and expanded on, in the Protocol.
The Protocol acknowledges the scientific value of the Continent as essential to our understanding of the global
environment (Article 3) and establishes the Committee for the Environmental Protection (Article 11) to provide
advice to the ATS on the implementation of the Protocol. The Protocol introduces environmental principles
for the conduct of all activities by Parties to ensure they avoid “detrimental changes in the distribution,
abundance or productivity of species of populations of fauna and flora” (Article 3) and activities considered to
have more than a minor or transitory impact on the environment are subject to an Environmental Impact
Assessment (Annex 1). Article 4 off Annex II of the Protocol addresses the “intentional” introduction of non-
native species, parasites and diseases for scientific purposes by providing for a permitting system and disposal
requirements and requires precautions be taken to prevent the introduction of non-native micro-organisms
(eg viruses, bacteria, parasites, yeasts, fungi). Procedures to specifically prevent the introduction of micro-
organisms are addressed in Appendix C of Appendices to Annex II of the Protocol which prohibits the
introduction of living birds and requires any unused dressed poultry taken into the Treaty area be removed to
eliminate risks to the native flora and fauna. The Appendix also requires the importation of non -sterile soil be
avoided to the maximum extent possible.
In summary, although the “unintentional” introduction of NNS is not directly addressed, the obligation for
Treaty Parties to address the issue can be inferred from a number of the Protocol’s Articles and Annexes.
Although the risks posed by NNS were identified at the inaugural meeting of the Scientific Committee for
Antarctic Research (SCAR) Biology Working Group (Murray, 1964 cited by AAD website) it appears the issue
has received little attention until the 1990s. Since 1997 the issue has increasingly been raised through
Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM) with a number of Working Papers (WP) and Information Papers
(IP) being presented with papers predominantly submitted by Australia and New Zealand. The IUCN, which
holds invited “Expert Status” at ATCMs, has also been active since the 1990’s, repeatedly offering to assist to
develop measures to both prevent and mitigate the effects of NNS. The International Association of Antarctic
Tour Operators (IAATO), the self-regulating voluntary body for tourist operators in the Antarctic area while
holding invited “Expert Status” at ATCMs, do not appear to have been active in addressing the issue at ATCM
As a result of a number of papers presented to ATCM on the issue in 1997/98 Australia hosted a workshop on
Diseases of Antarctic Wildlife and presented the findings and recommendations to CEPII ATCM XXIII (1999).
ATCM XXIII/WP32 noted the increasing risk of disease being introduced into Antarctic wildlife as a result of the
increasing number of people travelling to, and within, Antarctica and made a series of what are effectively
“biosecurity” recommendations (i.e. risk assessment, prevention, mitigation and monitoring and response) to
address the issue of NNS. The CEP requested that an open-ended contact group be formed and in 2001 the
findings were presented to CEPIV as ATCM XXIV/WP10 & WP11: Review and Risk Assessment and Practical
Measures to Diminish Risk. The minutes of the CEP Final Report IV acknowledges the WPs but no action
appears to be taken at the time to implement the recommendations.
Australia continued to be active in raising the issue of NNS and biosecurity at ATCMs. In 2004 it presented
ATCM XXVII/IP71 outlining its quarantine practices in regards to the Antarctic and in 2005 presented to CEP
VIII ATCM XXVIII/WP28 a recommendation that the CEP endorse the formation of an intercessional contact
group to assess the threat to the “Antarctic environment from the introduction and spread of alien organisms
and disease”. The CEP Final Report VIII acknowledges the WP and New Zealand indicated that it would be
prepared to host a workshop on the issue of NNS.
Although tourists to the Continent are one of the two main vectors (together with national Antarctic
programmes) for the potential introduction of NNS there appears to be little information presented to recent
ATCMs on the issue. There is a brief reference to protecting wildlife in the “Guidance for Visitors to the
Antarctic” adopted at ATCM XVIII-I which recommends visitors do not bring non-native plants or animals into
the Treaty Area (IAATO website). In 2004, Australia, as a contribution to the Antarctic Treaty Meeting of
Experts (ATME) on Antarctic Tourism and Non-Government Activities, prepared a paper regarding the
establishment of effective quarantine controls for tourism and non-government activities. However, the ATME
“had insufficient time” to consider the issue. As a result Australia presented ATCM XXVII/WP21(Rev 1) in
which it recommends the CEP assess the risks associated with tourist activities and non-government
organisations and develop proposals for the establishment of effective Antarctic quarantine controls. The CEP
Final Report VII acknowledges the WP but does not recommend any action.
1 IAATO has produced internal operational guidelines for IAATO operators “Boot, Clothing and Equipment Decontamination Guidelines”
(IAATO Website)
New Zealand’s involvement with NNS at ATCM level has been relatively recent. In 2006 New Zealand (under
the auspices of the CEP) hosted a “Non Native Species in the Antarctic” workshop and presented the findings
and recommendations as ATCM XXIX/WP13 & IP46. WP13 effectively reiterated the findings of the 1998
workshop in that biosecurity measures (i.e. risk assessment, prevention, mitigation and monitoring) are
urgently needed to manage the issue of NNS. CEP Final Report IX “strongly supported” the recommendations
of WP13 which included:
a) “The issue of NNS should be given the highest priority and that the CEP should take the lead on
b) “Dedicated research of, inter alia, existing biological and genetic diversity, species distribution
and biogeographic zones…”
c) “To the extent possible, non-native species issues should be built into existing procedures…notably
EIA procedures”.
d) “A set of…procedures should be developed, aimed at all operators in the Antarctic, based on a
“Prevention, Surveillance, Response” approach.
The increasing importance Treaty Parties are placing on the issue of NNS is also evidenced by the research
beginning to be undertaken by organisations which hold invited “Observer” status at ATCMs such as the
Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and the Council of Managers National Antarctic
Programmes (COMNAP). In 2007 SCAR presented a joint paper with Australia. ATCMXXX/IP49 outlines an
International Polar Year project to assess the pathways and vectors for NNS and SCAR’s Life Sciences Standing
Scientific Group (LSSSG) is currently developing a Code of Conduct for Field Work which begins to address not
only the introduction of NNS to the Continent but the issue of intra-continental contamination (SCAR website).
In 2006 the Antarctic Environmental Officers Network (AEON), a group of COMNAP undertook a survey of
national programme operators to assess what procedures were in place to minimise the introduction of NNS
(AEON Survey Results 2006). Responses were received from almost 70% of programmes that operates bases
on the Continent. Only one operator did not have some form of procedures in place.
2007 culminated in five papers directly related to NNS being presented. This included United Kingdom’s
ATCMXXX/WP21 which highlighted the issue of intra-continental contamination within the context of an
Antarctic Specially Protected Area of unique scientific value and New Zealand’s ATCM/WP15 presented the
CEP’s provisional five year workplan. It lists the issue of NNS amongst its highest priorities.
Given Australia is a signatory to the Treaty, has taken a leading role in environmental protection since the
inception of the ATS, and led the issue of NNS at Treaty meetings, this portion of the paper includes a case
study of how the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) is addressing the issues of NNS. It should be noted that
the study is not meant to be a critical review of what measures they have implemented, rather it is included to
give an example and context as to what is required of Treaty Parties if they intend to address the issue of NNS
and biosecurity in Antarctica.
Australia’s Antarctic Territorial (ATT) claim is administered by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) and is
located in the port city of Hobart, Tasmania. AAD operates a “national institute” approach in that it delivers
both the science research and the logistics needs to support the scientists. AAD administers three permanent
research stations on the Continent (Mawson, Davis and Casey). During the peak summer season AAD deploys
more than 400 personnel to its continental bases by ship (Australia in Antarctica 2006). Aircraft use to date,
with the exception of one inter-continental flight by two small aircraft each season, has been limited to
operating between AAD’s continental based stations/field research sites and ship-to-shore (Potter 2006).
However, this season (2007/08) final trials are underway which will see AAD establish regular, intercontinental
flights from Hobart to Casey Station (Australian Antarctic Magazine, 2006).
Quarantine provisions to protect the AAT through domestic legislation is provided for through Australia’s
Antarctic Treaty (Environmental Protection) Act 1980 (EPA), which regulates Australia’s activities in the Treaty
Area. As part of its commitment to the Antarctic environment, the AAD has implemented an internationally
accredited Environmental Management System (ISO 14001) (EMS) as a way of documenting, monitoring and
improving its environmental performance (AAD Environmental Management System Manual 2007).
Administratively the issue of NNS is considered very early on in AAD’s planning stages for activities on the
Continent and is taken into consideration when environmental impact assessments (EIA) are being evaluated
and conditions are attached to permits as necessary (Potter 2007).
As a result of its strong administration framework (such as the EMS and a department dedicated to policy
development) the AAD has developed a “Quarantine Management Statement” which outlines Australia’s
quarantine goals and objectives for Antarctica together with a “Quarantine Management System” (QMS) to
implement them. The AAD has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Tasmania’s quarantine
body, Quarantine Tasmania (ATCMXXVII/IP71) to assist with quarantine management.
The AAD utilises the existing port facilities in Hobart and has dedicated shipside facilities (accredited as “Class
One” sea and airfreight depot by Australia’s national quarantine authority) for all cargo destined for the
Continent. Cargo, and the containers they are stored in, are regularly inspected and treated as required and
“high-risk” items such as machinery automatically undergo treatment. There are restrictions in place for the
use of wood and personnel traveling to Antarctica must declare any goods that may be considered a potential
threat. Quarantine detector dogs are used to screen mail and random inspection of expeditioners’ personal
luggage is undertaken by quarantine officers and dogs (Potter 2006).
All ships are subject to a “Clean Ship” inspection by Quarantine Tasmania prior to departure and if stopping at
the sub Antarctic islands of Heard and McDonald2 then a full, manual quarantine inspection of all gear
(including cabin luggage, unaccompanied personal effects and scientific equipment) is undertaken. Before
disembarkation from ships, compulsory procedures include bootwashing, inspecting and cleaning of outer-
gear including clothing, back-packs, tripods and tool boxes. These procedures are repeated for every landing
to avoid intra-continental contamination (Potter 2006).
Pre-departure cleaning and inspections are carried out for the two small aircraft which undertake the one
intercontinental flight made each year and protocols for the inspection and cleaning of cargo are adapted for
the aircraft used for intra-continental/field station support. Additional measures include fixed wing aircraft
being disinfected using a perethrin-based spray. Given most intra-continental flights are made from snow or
ice runways limited procedures have been developed to address the risk of intra-continental contamination.
Aircraft movements (such as helicopters landing on multiple ice-free sites) identified as posing a risk are
generally addressed at the EIA stage and conditions attached to the permit as required. With regular inter-
continental flights scheduled to begin shortly, further quarantine strategies are currently being developed
(Potter 2006).
2 An Australian external territory administered by the AAD on behalf of the Australian Government. Inscribed on the World Heritage List
and designated as an Australian Commonwealth Marine Reserve. As a result of its status it is subject to additional quarantine controls.
All commercial suppliers of goods and services bound for the Continent are bound by AAD’s environmental
policies and all food supplied is subject to national procedures. Inspection of fresh produce is undertaken to
internationally recognized standards (“600 units two percent sample standard”) and some foods are either
prohibited or restricted to use on ships and stations (Potter 2006).
In the field faeces, urine and greywater are generally returned to the nearest station. There are some
exceptions to this where the length of stay or size of the field party needs to be considered and these issues
are generally dealt with at the environmental impact assessment stage (AAD Field & Field Waste Management
Guide 2007/08). Biological sewage treatment plants have been installed at all three stations and the resulting
sludge returned to Australia. The UV sterilisation of the effluent is currently being trialed to ensure that no
harmful organisms are released into the environment (Potter 2006).
All kitchen waste generated at the stations is incinerated and the ash shipped to Australia. Handling (unless
permitted) and feeding of wildlife is prohibited. Hydroponic units are located on all continental bases and are
subject to regular monitoring, cleaning and filtering of wastewater as well as restrictions on what may be
grown and plant waste matter is incinerated (Potter 2006).
The AAD’s Environmental Policy identifies education and training as key tool in protecting the environment
and as a result personnel must undergo briefing and training on quarantine issues prior to departure.
Procedures, policies and legislation are clearly (and repeatedly) detailed in expeditioners’ pre-departure
documentation. Other tools available include “Alien Invertebrate Collection Kits” for collecting any NNS found
in Antarctica for later identification and an intranet is available to report any environmental issues (AAD
Expeditioners’ Handbook 2007).
As a result of extensive experience administering biosecurity at a domestic level, together with the legislation
and management strategies developed to protect the sub Antarctic islands such as Macquarie (which has been
subjected to the devastating effects of NNS) Australia appears to have well developed quarantine systems in
place in relation to Australia’s activities in the Antarctic.
It is clear, from the literature reviewed, Australia has a long-term commitment to protecting the Antarctic
environment from NNS and has developed a strong administrative framework to work within. Strong domestic
legislation which specifically deals with quarantine issues for Antarctica (EPA, 1980), operating a “national
institute” model which has resulted in strong interdepartmental relationships, good intergovernmental
relationships (such as Quarantine Tasmania), dedicated science research into the Impacts of Human Activities
in Antarctica” (including NNS) and a dedicated policy department which has resulted in clear policy statements
and guidelines are all evidence of Australia’s commitment to the issue. The implementation of the
internationally accredited Environmental Management System means policies and procedures in relation to
environmental practices are continually monitored, reviewed and improved.
It is evident from the literature reviewed that some Treaty Parties acknowledge NNS both as a major
environmental threat and its potential to impact on the scientific value of the Continent. Australia and New
Zealand have dominated the submission of papers on the issue of NNS. However, it is unclear from the
literature reviewed what the opinion of the majority of the Treaty Parties is.
If Treaty Parties do agree to address the issue of NNS and biosecurity, then one of the biggest challenges facing
Treaty Parties is the need for not only agreement but buy in from all participants. The successful
implementation of any biosecurity programme is dependent on the participation and buy-in by all parties
involved and the level of success is only as good as the measures put in place by its weakest participant. The
issue is further challenged by the current structure of the ATS which leaves it to individual Treaty Parties to
interpret, develop and apply legislation at a domestic level to implement their obligations under the Treaty
and its associated instruments. This in turn raises further questions as to whether the issue can be adequately
dealt with within existing Treaty documents (e.g. Annex 1 Environmental Initial Assessments).
Issues are also raised as to how to ensure non Treaty members such as non-government organisations, tourists
and other non treaty parties comply with biosecurity measures. This is another challenge that needs to be
considered, particularly given there may be cost implications and pull on resources if Governments are
required to carry out quarantine control and monitoring.
The lack of a comprehensive baseline biological survey appears to be another major challenge given good
scientific data underpins the development and implementation of effective biosecurity strategies (O’Neil 2006
cited in De Poorter & Gilbert et al. 2006). While the CEP has agreed to take the lead on the issue it appears
SCAR would be the natural organisation to co-ordinate the study. This again requires buy-in from all parties
and raises complex issues around not only how to fund the resources required to co-ordinate the studies and
undertake the research but deciding where, when and who carries out the studies and monitoring. It also
raises the issue of the potential to place additional stress placed on national operators’ logistics. The study
may also conflict or compete with some Governments existing research priorities and it may be difficult to
convince some parties as to the importance of the study given some might take a short term view and deem
there to be no direct “benefits” for their country resulting from the study.
Time is also an issue. While biosecurity measures in regards to prevention, mitigation and response could be
implemented reasonably quickly, the co-ordination and implementation of the survey could (as with any
Antarctic research) take a number of years to co-ordinate and implement. This also applies should any
changes/additions be required to existing Antarctic Treaty System instruments such as the Protocol.
It is also unclear if Treaty Parties are aware of the commitment required and cost implications of implementing
long-term biosecurity measures.
Despite the challenges Treaty Parties are in a unique opportunity to address the issue. With very few NNS
species established on the Continent, together with relatively easily identifiable entry routes (there are only
five acknowledged global gateways to the Continent) and a legal framework in place to address the issue, the
Treaty Parties are in a position to be proactive and address the potential threat before it becomes an even
greater threat.
Some would consider how Antarctic Treaty parties respond to this latest threat as an indicator as to how
committed Antarctic Treaty parties are not only to the environmental protection of the Continent but to the
concept of Antarctica as a Continent for (peace) and science.
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Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research: Accessed 10 December
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Antarctic biodiversity faces an unknown future with a changing climate. Most terrestrial biota is restricted to limited patches of ice‐free land in a sea of ice, where they are adapted to the continent’s extreme cold and wind and exploit microhabitats of suitable conditions. As temperatures rise, ice‐free areas are predicted to expand, more rapidly in some areas than others. There is high uncertainty as to how species’ distributions, physiology, abundance and survivorship will be affected as their habitats transform. Here we use current knowledge to propose hypotheses that ice‐free area expansion i) will increase habitat availability, though the quality of habitat will vary; ii) will increase structural connectivity, although not necessarily increase opportunities for species establishment; iii) combined with milder climates will increase likelihood of non‐native species establishment, but may also lengthen activity windows for all species; and iv) will benefit some species and not others, possibly resulting in increased homogeneity of biodiversity. We anticipate considerable spatial, temporal, and taxonomic variation in species responses, and a heightened need for interdisciplinary research to understand the factors associated with ecosystem resilience under future scenarios. Such research will help identify at‐risk species or vulnerable localities and is crucial for informing environmental management and policymaking into the future.
... The Antarctic Peninsula and other adjacent regions such as the South Shetland Islands are the most popular regions for tourism, as they are in or near breeding areas for a wide diversity of polar species, such as pinnipeds, penguins and seabirds. As a consequence of the increase in anthropogenic activity, concerns have been raised about the risks of unintentional introduction of infectious agents into Antarctic fauna (Hughes et al. 2010(Hughes et al. , 2020. This concern increased in prominence after the detection of antibodies against infectious bursal disease virus in Antarctic penguins (Gardner et al. 1997). ...
Aims: To survey the diversity of fungal species that may be cultured from Antarctic penguins and pinnipeds, and to test the in vitro susceptibility to triazole drugs of any medically important Aspergillus isolates. Methods: During an expedition to Argentinean Antarctic research stations at Potter Peninsula (South Shetland Islands) and Primavera Cape (Antarctic Peninsula) in February 2019, samples (n = 212) were collected from fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella), elephant seals (Mirounga leonine), leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx), Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) and crabeater seals (Lobodon carcinophaga) and gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua). Oral, nasal and rectal swabs and skin/hair brushings were collected from pinnipeds, and skin/feather brushings, cloacal swabs and moulted feathers from penguins. Samples were cultured on Sabouraud dextrose agar and/or potato dextrose agar plates and fungal isolates identified by morphological criteria followed by PCR amplification and DNA sequencing. Antifungal susceptibility of Aspergillus spp. isolates to triazoles was tested. Results: Fungi from 21 genera were isolated from 121/212 (57.1%) samples obtained from pinnipeds and penguins. Among pinnipeds from Potter Peninsula (fur seals and elephants seals), the most frequent fungal species were Debaryomyces hansenii and Rhodotorula mucilaginosa, isolated from the oral, nasal and/or rectal mucosa, and Antarctomyces psychrotrophicus isolated from the skin/hair of all sampled individuals. Among pinnipeds from Primavera Cape (leopard seals, Weddell seals and crabeater seals), the most frequent fungal species were Naganishia adeliensis and Cryptococcus neoformans var. uniguttulatus, isolated from the nasal/oral mucosa of 4/33 (15.2%) and 5/33 (12.1%) animals, respectively. The most frequently isolated fungal species from gentoo penguins (Potter Peninsula), were Pseudogymnoascus pannorum and A. pyschrotrophicus, which both were isolated from skin/feathers of 7/15 (46.7%) birds, and Thelebolus microsporus, isolated from the cloacal mucosa and skin/feathers of 5/15 (33.3%) and 2/15 (13.3%) birds, respectively. Fungi that are potentially pathogenic to both humans and animals, (Aspergillus fumigatus, Asp. flavus, Asp. versicolor, Candida parapsilosis and Microsporum canis) were isolated from 4/38 (10.5%), 1/38 (2.6%), 2/38 (5.3%), 4/38 (10.5%) and 2/38 (5.3%) sampled pinnipeds, respectively. Only non-azole-resistant isolates of Asp. fumigatus and Asp. flavus were identified. Conclusions: The fungal biodiversity in Antarctic pinnipeds and gentoo penguins was explored using standard mycological culture followed by PCR and DNA sequencing. The frequency of fungal carriage varied among animal species, sample type and location. This study constitutes an epidemiologic approach to monitoring of these marine animals for emerging fungal pathogens.
... A vasútmenti pionír élőhelyeket gyakran máshonnan a helyszínre szállított talaj, homok, sóder, kőzúzalék borítja, így a rajtuk kialakuló növényzet propagulumforrása lehet az említett nyersanyagok kitermelésének helye. Az említett építőanyagokkal olyan növényeket is behurcolnak az építési területekre, amelyek megtelepedése az adott tájban vagy élőhelyi környezetben egyébként elképzelhetetlen lenne (WILLARD et al. 1990, HUGHES et al. 2010, BAUER 2019. ...
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A vasúti pályaszakaszok (vonalas létesítmények) mentén létrejövő pionír élőhelyek kiváló terjedési lehetőséget biztosítanak egyes fajok számára. A dolgozatban olyan, a vasúti töltéseken fellelt fajok új előfordulásait mutatom be, mint az Equisetum ×moorei, Equisetum ramosissimum, Lycopsis arvensis, Euphorbia maculata, Lepidium densiflorum, Tragus racemosus és a Vulpia myuros. Kiemelendő adat a Galium humifusum újrafelfedezése az országban. A dolgozatban összegyűjtött adatok alapján elmondható, hogy egyes adventív, illetve nem tájhonos (homokgyepi) fajok ezen vasúti töltések homokalapzatait képesek kolonizálni, így azokat ökológiai folyosóként használni. Ezáltal a vasútmenti pionír élőhelyek jelentős szerepet játszanak az adventív fajok terjeszkedésében, ugyanakkor az orszá­gosan ritka, őshonos pionír fajok megtelepedésére is lehetőséget adnak.
... annua is an excellent coloniser of exposed and highly disturbed areas and can quickly become dominant once established (Chwedorzewska et al., 2015;Molina-Montenegro et al., 2019;Scott & Kirkpatrick, 2005). The species is established on many sub-Antarctic and maritime Antarctic islands and on the Antarctic Peninsula (Frenot et al., 1997;Hughes et al., 2010;Molina-Montenegro et al., 2019;Olech & Chwedorzewska, 2011;Pertierra et al., 2017;Roy, 1990). In addition, it is the only alien plant species with successful generative reproduction on the Antarctic continent (Chwedorzewska et al., 2015). ...
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The link between the successful establishment of alien species and propagule pressure is well‐documented. Less known is how humans influence the post‐introduction dynamics of invasive alien populations. The latter requires studying parallel invasions by the same species in habitats that are differently impacted by humans. We analysed microsatellite and genome size variation, and then compared the genetic diversity and structure of invasive Poa annua L. on two sub‐Antarctic islands: human‐occupied Marion Island and unoccupied Prince Edward Island. We also carried out niche modelling to map the potential distribution of the species on both islands. We found high levels of genetic diversity and evidence for extensive admixture between genetically distinct lineages of P. annua on Marion Island. By contrast, the Prince Edward Island populations showed low genetic diversity, no apparent admixture, and had smaller genomes. On both islands, high genetic diversity was apparent at human landing sites, and on Marion Island, also around human settlements, suggesting that these areas received multiple introductions and/or acted as initial introduction sites and secondary sources (bridgeheads) for invasive populations. More than 70 years of continuous human activity associated with a meteorological station on Marion Island led to a distribution of this species around human settlements and along footpaths, which facilitates ongoing gene flow among geographically separated populations. By contrast, this was not the case for Prince Edward Island, where P. annua populations showed high genetic structure. The high levels of genetic variation and admixture in P. annua facilitated by human activity, coupled with high habitat suitability on both islands, suggest that P. annua is likely to increase its distribution and abundance in the future.
... No invertebrates were searched for or noted at the time of the transplants, and it was not until the early 1980s that the fly was first reported on Signy Island (Block et al., 1984). However, live larvae of E. murphyi have certainly been transported inadvertently into Antarctica from South Georgia on a subsequent occasion, when over 100 kg of soil that had not been properly cleaned from construction vehicles before relocation to Rothera Station on Adelaide Island was found to contain the species, as well as a range of other invertebrates, plants, and microbes (Hughes et al., 2010). It is also possible that the species was introduced to Signy Island earlier, during the 1930s operation of a small whaling station at the same location as the current research station, because this also involved the movement of vessels and cargo from South Georgia (Convey & Block, 1996). ...
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Belgica antarctica (Diptera: Chironomidae), a brachypterous midge endemic to the maritime Antarctic, was first described in 1900. Over more than a century of study, a vast amount of information has been compiled on the species (3 750 000 Google search results as of January 10, 2021), encompassing its ecology and biology, life cycle and reproduction, polytene chromosomes, physiology, biochemistry and, increasingly, omics. In 2014, B. antarctica’s genome was sequenced, further boosting research. Certain developmental stages can be cultured successfully in the laboratory. Taken together, this wealth of information allows the species to be viewed as a natural model organism for studies of adaptation and function in extreme environments.
Technical Report
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Antarctica and the surrounding Southern Ocean are under increasing pressure from cumulative impacts of climate change, pollution, fisheries, tourism and a variety of other human activities. These changes pose a high risk both to local polar ecosystems and to the regulation of the global climate, as well as through global sea-level rise. Thus, long-term monitoring programmes serve to assess the state of ecosystems as well as to make projections for future developments. The Fildes Region in the southwest King George Islands (South Shetland Islands, Maritime Antarctica), consisting of the Fildes Peninsula, Ardley Island and several offshore islands, is one of the largest ice-free areas in the Maritime Antarctic. As a continuation of a long-term monitoring programme started in the 1980s, local breeding bird and seal populations were recorded during the summer months (December, January, February) of the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons and supplemented by individual count data for the 2020/21 season. This study presents the results obtained, including the population development of the local breeding birds. Here, some species showed stable populations in a long-term comparison (brown skuas, southern polar skuas) or a significant increase (gentoo penguin, southern giant petrel). Other species, however, recorded significant declines in breeding pair numbers (Adélie penguin, chinstrap cenguin, Antarctic tern, kelp gull) up to an almost complete disappearance from the breeding area (cape petrel). In addition, the number of seals at their haul-out sites was recorded and the distribution of all seal reproduction sites in the Fildes Region was presented. Furthermore, data on the breeding bird population in selected areas of Maxwell Bay were added. Additionally, the rapid expansion of the Antarctic hairgrass was documented with the help of a completed repeat mapping. The documentation of glacier retreat areas of selected areas of Maxwell Bay was updated using satellite imagery and considered in relation to regional climatic development. Furthermore, the distribution and amount of marine debris washed up in the Fildes Region and the impact of anthropogenic material on seabirds will are addressed. In addition, the current knowledge of all introduced non-native species in the study area and the need for further research are presented.
Understanding the success factors underlying each step in the process of biological invasion provides a robust foundation upon which to develop appropriate biosecurity measures. Insights into the processes occurring can be gained through clarifying the circumstances applying to non-native species that have arrived, established and, in some cases, successfully spread in terrestrial Antarctica. To date, examples include a small number of vascular plants and a greater diversity of invertebrates (including Diptera, Collembola, Acari and Oligochaeta), which share features of pre-adaptation to the environmental stresses experienced in Antarctica. In this synthesis, we examine multiple classic invasion science hypotheses that are widely considered to have relevance in invasion ecology and assess their utility in understanding the different invasion histories so far documented in the continent. All of these existing hypotheses appear relevant to some degree in explaining invasion processes in Antarctica. They are also relevant in understanding failed invasions and identifying barriers to invasion. However, the limited number of cases currently available constrains the possibility of establishing patterns and processes. To conclude, we discuss several new and emerging confirmatory methods as relevant tools to test and compare these hypotheses given the availability of appropriate sample sizes in the future.
Technical Report
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Plants sustain life on Earth, providing humans and other organisms with food, shelter, and clean air. They are foundational to the economic, cultural, physical, and spiritual well-being of people in Canada. Although plants are a constant ― often unnoticed ― presence in our lives, they are increasingly at risk and under pressure. Plants face many threats, such as rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, extreme weather events, disease, and new predators, all of which have been exacerbated by climate change, the global movement of people and goods, and evolutionary processes. There is still a great deal to learn about how stressors affect plants and their relationships with pests and the environment. It’s clear, however, that the risks to plant health also threaten the health of broader ecosystems, affecting climate, human and animal health, biodiversity, and food security. Addressing current and emerging risks to plant health is vital to the survival of life on Earth. Cultivating Diversity examines the existing and emerging risks to plant health in Canada and offers insights into promising practices that may help to mitigate them. The report focuses on key areas of risk, rather than specific risks, as well as strategies to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience.
As plans for space exploration and commercial use expand rapidly, biosecurity measures and risk assessments that inform them must adapt. Sophisticated protocols are required to prevent biological contamination of extraterrestrial environments from Earth and vice versa. Such protocols should be informed by research on biological invasions—human-assisted spread of organisms into novel environments—which has revealed, inter alia, that (1) invasion risk is driven by the timing and frequency of introduction events, whose control requires addressing the least secure human activities associated with organismal transport; (2) invasions and their impacts are difficult to predict, because these phenomena are governed by context dependencies involving traits of the organism and the receiving environment; and (3) early detection and rapid response are crucial for prevention but undermined by taxonomic methods that fail to recognize what is “alien” versus what is native. Collaboration among astrobiologists, invasion biologists, and policymakers could greatly enhance planetary biosecurity protocols.
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Antarctica currently has few non-native species, compared to other regions of the planet, due to the continent’s isolation, extreme climatic conditions and the lack of habitat. However, human activity, particularly the activities of national government operators and tourism, increasingly contributes to the risk of non-native species transfer and establishment. Trichocera (Saltitrichocera) maculipennis Meigen, 1888 (Diptera, Trichoceridae) is a non-native fly originating from the Northern Hemisphere that was unintentionally introduced to King George Island in the maritime Antarctic South Shetland Islands around 15 years ago, since when it has been reported within or in the vicinity of several research stations. It is not explicitly confirmed that T. maculipennis has established in the natural environment, but life-history characteristics make this likely, thereby making potential eradication or control a challenge. Antarctic Treaty Parties active in the region are developing a coordinated and expanding international response to monitor and control T. maculipennis within and around stations in the affected area. However, there remains no overarching non-native invasive species management plan for the island or the wider maritime Antarctic region (which shares similar environmental conditions and habitats to those of King George Island). Here we present some options towards the development of such a plan. We recommend the development of (1) clear mechanisms for the timely coordination of response activities by multiple Parties operating in the vicinity of the introduction location and (2) policy guidance on acceptable levels of environmental impacts resulting from eradication attempts in the natural environment, including the use of pesticides.
Parts of Antarctica, particularly the Antarctic Peninsula region and sub-Antarctic Islands, are experiencing rapid changes in climate, particularly temperature, precipitation/hydration and irradiation, although it is becoming clear that many of these are driven by regional rather than global processes. Terrestrial ecosystems of this remote region provide a “natural experiment” in which to identify biological responses (at scales between cell biochemistry and whole ecosystem) to changing climate variables, both in isolation and combination. The conclusions drawn may be applied to more complex lower latitude ecosystems, where change is perceived to have more direct relevance to Mankind. This paper gives an overview of recent and continuing studies of Antarctic terrestrial biology, assessing these in the context of existing predictive literature. The importance of flexibility (physiological and ecological) and resilience of existing taxa in the face of change are highlighted. In the longterm, large-scale changes in ecosystem structure, complexity and diversity are likely as a consequence of long-distance colonisation by exotic species. However, in the shorter term, geographical isolation will limit responses to those of existing terrestrial biota. In contrast with some earlier predictions of wide-ranging deleterious effects, these now appear likely to be subtle and multifactorial in origin.
This paper draws to a large extent on the recent benchmark review by Frenot et al. (2005) of the presence and status of non-indigenous (alien) species, carried out under the auspices of the RiSCC (Regional Sensitivity to Climate Change in Antarctica) programme of the Scientific Commitee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). The aim of the review was to document the current state of knowledge on alien species in terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems of continental Antarctica, and the subantarctic in terms of extent, impact and implications, and taking into account contemporary changes in climate and patterns of human activities in these regions.
In contrast to northern polar areas, the dipteran fauna of Antarctica is depauperate, with only two naturally occurring species of Chironomidae. Surprisingly little is known of the biology of these species. One, Parochlus steinenii, reaches the southern limit of a distribution covering the high Andes. Tierra del Fuego, South Georgia and the South Shetland Islands in the maritime Antarctic. The other. Belgica antarctica, is endemic to the maritime Antarctic. What factors influence the distribution and past colonisation of these two species in the Antarctic? Distributional data and evidence from an accidental introduction of a third chironomid (Eretmoptera murphuyi) suggest that difficulty of colonisation is the major factor limiting the number of dipteran species present in the maritime Antarctic. Other sub-Antarctic species are likely to be preadapted to more rigorous conditions, should natural or man-induced clonisation opportunities occur. Evidence from physiological and ecological studies identify adaptations which allow these two species to survive in the harsh terrestrial environment of Antarctica. Life history characteristics of all three species include flexibility in development rates and size achieved, and the ability to continue activity at low positive temperatures. The distribution of the endemic B. antarctica is probably limited by the availability of suitable moist, vegetated, habitats and its brachyptery, rather than biological constraints directly, whereas the southern distribution of P. steinenii may be temperature-limited. Competition does not appear to be an important factor in the biology and ecology of either species, or in Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems generally.
A monophialidic species of Paecilomyces was isolated from the Antarctic springtail Cryptopygus antarcticus in the peninsular Antarctic. The fungus emerged through the carapace of dead arthropods during incubation at 4°C, and produced colonies on agar media at both 4 and 17°C. The fungus was morphologically similar to a number of existing monophialidic species of Paecilomyces, but differed in colony pigmentation, the size of phialides and conidial features. Analysis of the ribosomal DNA internally transcribed spacer (ITS) and 18s subunit sequences showed the fungus to be distinct from other Paecilomyces species, and suggested a close relationship with Cordyceps species. The new species Paecilomyces antarcticus is described.
The methods used to enumerate microbial populations fall into two major divisions, direct and indirect counting methods. Direct counting methods can further be subdivided. Those that attempt to count all the microorganisms of a particular type, for example, bacteria, fungi, algae, and protozoa, in a given sample give a total count of all the organisms present irrespective of whether they are living or dead. Alternatively, viable counting methods can be used to differentiate between the living and dead cells by assessing their ability to grow either in liquid media, on solid media, or on membrane filter. Since there is no universal growth medium on which all microorganisms grow, it is, therefore, inevitable that viable counting methods substantially underestimate the true microbial populations present. A crucial aspect of indirect methods is that the chemical component to be determined should have a known and constant ratio to cell biomass and should not be influenced by factors, such as growth rate and nutrient status of the cells.