Food for thought: Risks of non-native species transfer to the Antarctic region with fresh produce
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To understand fully the risk of biological invasions, it is necessary to quantify propagule pressure along all introduction pathways. In the Antarctic region, importation of fresh produce is a potentially high risk, but as yet unquantified pathway. To address this knowledge gap, >11,250 fruit and vegetables sent to nine research stations in Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands, were examined for associated soil, invertebrates and microbial decomposition. Fifty-one food types were sourced from c. 130 locations dispersed across all six of the Earth’s inhabited continents. On average, 12% of food items had soil on their surface, 28% showed microbial infection resulting in rot and more than 56 invertebrates were recorded, mainly from leafy produce. Approximately 30% of identified fungi sampled from infected foods were not recorded previously from within the Antarctic region, although this may reflect limited knowledge of Antarctic fungal diversity. The number of non-native flying invertebrates caught within the Rothera Research Station food storage area was linked closely with the level of fresh food resupply by ship and aircraft. We conclude by presenting practical biosecurity measures to reduce the risk of non-native species introductions to Antarctica associated with fresh foods.
- RESEARCH: Chown S