Aliens in Antarctica

As 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. Antarctica is not immune to the risks of invasive species, but impacts have so far been restricted to the milder sub-Antarctic islands. As parts of the continent warm, however, 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 ever before, and many more people are doing so. Focusing on the annual migration of scientists and tourists to the Antarctic in 2007, the Aliens in Antarctica project, led by Australian Antarctic Division scientist Dr Dana Bergstrom, 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. This will be the first time that an assessment of the extent of transfer of alien species into an entire biome has been made.