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Global initiative guide regulations to reduce alien species in Antarctica

A cruise ship undergoing biosecurity checks

After undergoing biosecurity checks, cruise ship passengers wait to go ashore on South Georgia. (Photo credit: Martin Collins)

Have you ever been asked by a border official whether you have visited a farm recently, and wondered why? Recently published C·I·B research conducted in association with the International Polar Year ‘Aliens in Antarctica’ project has measured the propagule load carried in the clothing and gear of researchers and visitors to the Antarctic region. This global initiative, involving researchers from ten institutes, also examined the risk posed by non-native species in the Antarctic, and options for managing them, giving the most detailed analysis yet of how alien species are transported to the Antarctic.

Researchers worked with tour operators and scientists to collect samples for the project. The field equipment of different visitors associated with scientific research programmes and tourist operations was searched, and all seeds, soil and fragments of plants were collected. Researchers also gathered information about the timing of travel and the regions and types of facilities visitors had travelled to before visiting Antarctica.

Seeds were found in 20% of tourist samples and 45% of scientific visitor samples. Footwear, trousers and bags belonging to field scientists carried the most soil and plant material, especially if the owners had recently visited protected areas, parks, botanic gardens or alpine areas. Among tourists, those who had visited rural and agricultural areas before travelling to the Antarctic had the highest probability of bringing seeds with them.

The Aliens in Antarctica project provided information to guide travelers in taking care of their personal equipment, and to allow organisations, such as Antarctic tour operators and logistics companies to issue guidelines and hold regular inspections of their members.




Read the paper:

Huiskes, A.H.L., Gremmen, N.J.M., Bergstrom, D.M., Frenot, Y, Hughes, K.A., Imura, S., Kiefer, K., Lebouvier, M., Lee, J.E., Tsujimoto, M., Ware, C., Van de Vijver, B. and Chown, S.L. 2014. Aliens in Antarctica: Assessing transfer of plant propagules by human visitors to reduce invasion risk. Biological Conservation 171: 278-284..