*NEWS*WARM SPECIES INVADING ANTARTIC

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*NEWS*WARM SPECIES INVADING ANTARTIC

 user 2006-06-27 at 11:11:00 am Views: 51
  • #15866

    ‘Warm’ species invading Antarctic
    Scientists
    are calling for action to prevent foreign species from taking hold in
    Antarctica and wrecking the continent’s unique ecosystems.Despite
    Antarctica’s inhospitable environment, non-native species introduced by
    tourists, scientists and explorers are gaining a foothold.Species can
    hitch a ride on ships and planes carrying visitors and supplies.A paper
    on the matter tabled at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in
    Edinburgh met with “good agreement”.
    It costs thousands and sometimes millions of dollars to try and get rid of something… prevention is better than a cureNeil Gilbert, Antarctica NZ
    “Antarctica
    has long been considered as an isolated continent with a harsh
    environment. So the general perception has been that we don’t need to
    worry about non-native species. We know better now,” Dr Gilbert,
    environmental manager at Antarctica New Zealand, told BBC News.Male and
    female North Atlantic spider crabs ( Hyas araneus ) have been found in
    waters off the Antarctic Peninsula. Neil Gilbert says the species could
    not have migrated such a great distance by its own accord.In addition,
    a cosmopolitan species of grass, Poa annua , is surviving on King
    George Island, north of the Antarctic Peninsula.According to Dr
    Gilbert, two principal factors are facilitating colonisation of
    Antarctic habitats by foreign species: the increased numbers of people
    travelling to the continent and climate change.

    Visitor growth
    “There
    are more and more people going to Antarctica and we know that people
    and ships and planes carry plant seeds and other non-native species,”
    Dr Gilbert explained.”The Antarctic Peninsula region is warming more
    quickly than anywhere else on the planet. Those species capable of
    surviving in polar climates are more likely to survive in a less harsh
    climate.”More than 26,000 international tourists visit Antarctica each
    year and numbers grow by the thousand each season.Dr Gilbert said: “I
    think we can say with some confidence that the [treaty] meeting has
    recognised this as a really important issue, that there is a need for
    research.”We don’t know much about what species are in the marine
    environment around Antarctica. We’ve got to get a better handle on what
    is there, so that we know what is native and non-native.”Secondly, we
    need to know what are the vectors by which all this material is being
    brought in.”
    Code of conduct
    Those
    behind the motion presented at the meeting are to work on developing a
    code of conduct related to the introduction of foreign species -a set
    of minimum standards to which Antarctic visitors should abide.However,
    there is still no consensus on what to do with non-native species that
    have already arrived and those that could arrive in future.”It’s a
    challenging question. In some cases, management – trying to contain
    them – may be the best option. The chances are that the North Atlantic
    spider crab is already established,” Dr Gilbert said.”It costs
    thousands and sometimes millions of dollars to try to get rid of
    something. One of the things we have been pressing at this meeting is
    that prevention is better than a cure.”Dr Gilbert said proposals would
    also need to cover the transfer of species between isolated – and often
    fragile – ecosystems within Antarctica.The Antarctic Treaty’s Committee
    for Environmental Protection has agreed to make the issue of invasive
    species a standing item on its agenda and to consider management
    options at its next meeting, which will be held in India in April 2007.