A recent study released by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) discovered that certain factors such as tourism, fishing, research work, as well as supply ships linking Antarctica across the world have introduced invasive species to the continent which contains nearly 70% of the world's freshwater. According to BBC, species from all around the globe are threatening Antarctica's pristine marine ecology by "hitching a lift" on the vessels.
As per the study, researchers revealed that the Southern Ocean, which sustains "unique biota" and is the only worldwide marine zone with no known biological invasions, is experiencing its biological barriers fundamentally impacted by climate change, Sputnik reported. Further, with the combination of increased maritime traffic, invasive species are posing a danger to its present environment, as they found ways to survive among its waters. As per Sputnik, the European beach crab, barnacles, mussels, as well as numerous algae species are among the invasive species that endanger the continent's environment.
Furthermore, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, are the five major harbors that connect to Antarctica, which have previously been watched for biosecurity reasons. However, researchers started evaluating an additional 58 ports connected to the significant continent between the time period 2014 and 2018. There are now records of 1,581 ports that are either directly or indirectly connected to Antarctica.
Lead researcher Arlie McCarthy from the University of Cambridge said, “These ships travel all around the world. It means that almost anywhere could be a potential source for invasive species. Those non-native species can completely change an ecosystem", BBC reported.
According to Professor David C. Aldridge of the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology, for the time being, the tundra is safeguarded by its harsh environment, but climate change is making Antarctica more hospitable to invasive species. In addition to this, the researchers from the University of Cambridge have discovered evidence from port call data and satellite pictures showing the vessels in Antarctica are primarily from South America, northern Europe, and the western Pacific.
Aldridge went on to say that Antarctica is a remote habitat that is unfamiliar with foreign organisms. “(Its) native species have been separated for the previous 15-30 million year,” citing the researcher, Sputnik reported. He even said that this might have a devastating economic impact on fishing.
While scientists have not requested any specific laws for ships, extra biosecurity safeguards at shipping ports may be implemented in the future. Furthermore, experts advise visitors to ensure that no invasive species capable of surviving in the severe habitat are transferred to the continent on clothes or equipment.