Wed, 12 January 2022
Is visiting the Antarctic on your bucket list? If so, you may want to take the right boat to get there.
PhD researcher at the University of Cambridge, Arlie McCarthy, wrote a great piece that we should all be talking about regarding invasive species reaching the Antarctic on Conversation.com.
The article describes the difficult path invasive species have had to travel to reach the shores of the Antarctic. The Southern Ocean's currents rotate clockwise around the continent deflecting many of the species. If the invasive species do make it to the coastal area, then they would have to survive the freezing cold temperatures and rough waters. These conditions make it difficult for invasive species to settle. Unless they travel by boat.
Humans visit the continent for a variety of reasons: tourism, research, fishing, and supply researchers. The ships they take to reach the frozen continent provide invasive species with a direct pathway to the coastal area increasing the chance of species survival and colonization.
Invasive mussels and crabs can pose problems for local species. Mussels can outcompete local species for space by forming mussel beds and altering the habitat. Crabs can be a new threat to local populations as they become new predators. The results can alter the Antarctic coastline as we know it.
There are measures that can be taken to reduce the level of exposure to invasive species. Add a coating to the hull of the boat to ensure animals and plants do not stick to the hull. Exchanging ballast water outside the coastal zone would also help. Preventative measures are helpful, but enforcement will be necessary to ensure success.