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Food shipments introduce alien species to Antarctica

Posted by Lindy on April 23, 2011

Despite all the precautions and the Antarctic Treaty, sign up to by 46 countries, fresh fruit and vegetables being sent to feed the 4,000 or so scientists stationed in Antarctica are laden with foreign species of insects, slugs, worms, plant seeds and fungi.

The findings have shown tourists are also carrying large numbers of plant seeds to the area on their shoes and in their clothing, have prompted an urgent review of biosecurity for visitors to the Antarctic. They fear that if these foreign species are able to get a foothold on the Antarctic continent they could cause widespread damage.

Dr Hughes and his colleagues, from the British Antarctic Survey, examined 11,250 fruit and vegetables sent to nine research stations in Antarctica and the surrounding islands.

They found soil on 12 per cent of the food and 56 foreign invertebrates. They also found 19 species of mould, including fungi that can cause plant diseases. The mainland continent has already been colonised by ten foreign species.

“As the climate warms, the risk posed by these non-native species increases as they are more likely to survive there,” he said. “This has now become a top priority for the community in Antarctica.”


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