Alien species and propagules in the Antarctic: movements though space and time
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Although the impacts of biological invasions are widely appreciated, a bias exists in research effort to post-dispersal processes because of the difficulties of measuring propagule pressure and the detecting of newly established species. Here the Antarctic is used as a model system in which to quantify the initial dispersal of alien species and investigate the factors that contribute to the establishment and range dynamics of alien species once they have arrived in the region. Human movements are known to transport alien species into the Antarctic, some of which have successfully established and had wide ranging consequences in recipient ecosystems. Considering terrestrial flora, this research found that over 700 seeds from 99 taxa, including some species known to be invasive, are transported into the Antarctic each year in association with South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP) passenger luggage and cargo. The first ever assessment of propagule drop-off indicated that 30-50% of these propagules will enter the recipient environment. Further results suggested that the construction of the British Antarctic Survey Halley VI station will facilitate the transport of over 5000 seeds from 34 taxa into the region, making this a significant pathway for introductions. Propagule pressure due to SANAP logistics is also considerable for marine species. Fouling assemblages on the external hull surfaces of the SANAP resupply vessel, the SA Agulhas, form only once the vessel’s anti-fouling paint has been damaged by travel through sea ice and are characterised by low diversity. Ice scour prevents fouling assemblages from being transported to the Antarctic continent, but assemblages remain largely intact when travelling to sub-Antarctic Islands. In the sea-chests of the vessel populations of a known invasive, Mytilus galloprovincialis, were found with some individuals having survived transportation to the Antarctic region on multiple occasions. Once species have overcome initial dispersal barriers, they face further ecological and physiological challenges in order to establish in the recipient region. The parasitoid wasp Aphidius matricariae was first recorded on Marion Island in 2001. Surveys around the island show that adult abundance and the frequency of aphid parasitism are highest adjacent to a common anchor point of the SA Agulhas and decline away from this region. Genetic diversity was low, suggesting that the population was established from a single introduction. This highlights that high propagule pressure is not necessary for successful establishment of introduced invertebrates. Another species that has overcome the dispersal barrier is the terrestrial slug Deroceras panormitanum, which was introduced to Marion Island in the 1970’s and has since spread throughout much of the coastal habitat of the island. For this species range limits are set by intolerance of low temperature and salinity, and abundance structure is characterized by patches and gaps which are associated with this species inability to tolerate dry conditions. To prevent further alien introductions in the region, targeted management of high risk pathways is required. In addition, increased vigilance is needed to detect and manage newly established aliens before their ranges expand.