Non-Native Species in Antarctica : A review of how the Antarctic Treaty parties are responding to the issue through the Antarctic Treaty Consultative meetings
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree LevelPostgraduate Certificate
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
Biological invasions through the introduction of non-native species (NNS) such as microbes, fungi, plants and animals are considered globally as one of the most significant threats to biodiversity (McKinney & Lockwood 1999 cited in Frenot et al. 2005). Almost every continent and ecosystem type on earth has been affected by NNS often resulting in irreversible changes to the structure and functioning of ecosystems. Antarctica, with no indigenous population, remained free of human visitation until approximately two centuries ago. Isolated from the rest of the world through its climate and geography, the Continent, which contains less than 2% ice free areas (Potter 2006), has developed a series of simple (some of which have been described as the simplest on the planet [Convey, 2007]), yet interdependent eco-systems and is one of the last continents where biogeographic boundaries still exist (De Poorter & Gilbert et al. 2006). Research to date indicates the vast majority of the Continent has escaped biological invasions. However, increasing human visitation and activity both to, from and within, the Continent (predominantly by national Antarctic programmes and tourists) combined with current climatic trends means there is an increasing awareness by Treaty Parties of the risk of NNS unintentionally being introduced and becoming established on the Continent. Another significant risk recently identified by Treaty Parties is the impacts of intra-continental contamination whereby native species have the potential to be unintentionally transferred across natural biogeography boundaries within the Continent into ecosystems where they do not naturally exist (De Poorter & Gilbert et al. 2006) This paper is a review of how Antarctic Treaty Parties have addressed the issue of the [unintentional] introduction of NNS within the Treaty Area through Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings over the past decade. It also includes a case study of how a Treaty Party member, the Australian Antarctic Division, is addressing the issue as part of their obligations under the Treaty. It is limited to a review of NNS being unintentionally introduced to the Antarctic Continent through human activity but does not address the issue of unintentional introduction of NNS to the marine environment of the Treaty Area (Southern Ocean).
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