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Determining the native/non-native status of newly discovered terrestrial and freshwater species in Antarctica - current knowledge, methodology and management action

By Kevin A. Hughes and Peter Convey


Continental Antarctic terrestrial and freshwater environments currently have few established non-native\ud species compared to the sub-Antarctic islands and other terrestrial ecosystems on Earth. This is due to\ud a unique combination of factors including Antarctica’s remoteness, harsh climate, physical geography and\ud brief history of human activity. However, recent increases in national operator and tourism activities\ud increase the risk of non-native propagules reaching Antarctica, while climate change may make\ud successful establishment more likely. The frequency and probability of human-assisted transfer mechanisms\ud appear to far outweigh those of natural propagule introductions by wind, water, birds and marine\ud mammals. A dilemma for scientists and environmental managers, which is exacerbated by a poor\ud baseline knowledge of Antarctic biodiversity, is how to determine the native/non-native status of a newly\ud discovered species which could be (a) a previously undiscovered long-term native species, (b) a recent\ud natural colonist or (c) a human-mediated introduction. A correct diagnosis is crucial as the Protocol on\ud Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty dictates dramatically different management responses\ud depending on native/non-native status: native species and recent natural colonists should be protected\ud and conserved, while non-native introductions should be eradicated or controlled. We review current\ud knowledge on how available evidence should be used to differentiate between native and non-native\ud species, and discuss and recommend issues that should be considered by scientists and managers\ud upon discovery of a species apparently new to the Antarctic region

Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2012
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2011.08.017
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