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‘Alien Invasion’ Threatens Antarctic Life

March 11, 2012 by staff 

‘Alien Invasion’ Threatens Antarctic Life, The fringes of Antarctica are being invaded by alien plants and tiny animals, scientists have found.

Researchers scoured the clothes and boots of tourists and scientists visiting the continent and found that most were carrying plant seeds.

Alien plants already grow on the fast-warming Antarctic Peninsula.

Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the team says the plants are likely to spread as the climate warms.

“People in the past have been sceptical, saying, ‘It’s largely ice-covered so it’s unlikely that plants will establish themselves’,” said lead researcher Steven Chown from Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

“[They're] forgetting that probably less than 1%, but still a significant area, is ice-free – some of that’s in the peninsula region, and it’s been warming very quickly.”

The Antarctic Peninsula, which runs up towards the southern tip of South America, has warmed by about 3C over half a century, much faster than the global average.

As a result, ice cover is dwindling.

Many islands in the sub-Antarctic region have seen significant ecological changes due to invasive species that have either arrived accidentally or deliberately.

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