Predicting Antarctic suitability of the world's worst terrestrial invaders

Climatic barriers protecting the Antarctic region from invasions may be thing of the past

Data resources used via GBIF : 2,329,509 species occurrences
fox
Red fox (Vulpes vulpes), listed on the 100 World's Worst Invasive Alien Species list. Photo by Per Hansen–via the Norwegian Species Observation Service–licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Due to its geographic isolation and climate, the Antartic region has been somewhat protected from biological invasions, however, with warming climates and increased human traffic, the protection afforded the region may be diminishing.

In a new study, researchers used species distribution modelling to assess the likelihood of establishment of the world’s worst–according to IUCN–terrestrial invaders supplemented by cold-tolerant non-native species already known to occur in the Antarctic region.

Using ten different modelling methodologies, the authors created robust ensemble models based on GBIF-mediated occurrences and current climate data with projections for 2050 and 2100. They created a summed map from which they found the Antarctic continent unsuitable for all tested species under current conditions, however, within the next century the Antarctic peninsula may become suitable for six species.

While the continent may still be protected, the models showed that all but one of the Southern Ocean islands are currently suitable to multiple species. The islands of Auckland and Campbell, in particular, show suitability for a high number of species, but for all islands suitability is predicted to increase by 2100.

Link to original article

Duffy GA, Coetzee BWT, Latombe G, Akerman AH, McGeoch MA and Chown SL (2017) Barriers to globally invasive species are weakening across the Antarctic. Diversity and Distributions. Wiley 23(9): 982–996. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12593.