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Invasive marine species discovered on non–native kelp rafts in the warmest Antarctic island

Avila, Conxita; Angulo-Preckler, Carlos; Martín-Martín, Rafael P.; Figuerola, Blanca; Griffiths, Huw James; Waller, Catherine Louise


Conxita Avila

Carlos Angulo-Preckler

Rafael P. Martín-Martín

Blanca Figuerola

Huw James Griffiths


Antarctic shallow coastal marine communities were long thought to be isolated from their nearest
neighbours by hundreds of kilometres of deep ocean and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The
discovery of non–native kelp washed up on Antarctic beaches led us to question the permeability of
these barriers to species dispersal. According to the literature, over 70 million kelp rafts are afloat in
the Southern Ocean at any one time. These living, floating islands can play host to a range of passenger
species from both their original coastal location and those picked in the open ocean. Driven by winds,
currents and storms towards the coast of the continent, these rafts are often cited as theoretical vectors
for the introduction of new species into Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands. We found non-native
kelps, with a wide range of “hitchhiking” passenger organisms, on an Antarctic beach inside the flooded
caldera of an active volcanic island. This is the first evidence of non-native species reaching the Antarctic
continent alive on kelp rafts. One passenger species, the bryozoan Membranipora membranacea, is
found to be an invasive and ecologically harmful species in some cold-water regions, and this is its first
record from Antarctica. The caldera of Deception Island provides considerably milder conditions than
the frigid surrounding waters and it could be an ideal location for newly introduced species to become
established. These findings may help to explain many of the biogeographic patterns and connections
we currently see in the Southern Ocean. However, with the impacts of climate change in the region we
may see an increase in the range and number of organisms capable of surviving both the long journey
and becoming successfully established.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 31, 2020
Journal Scientific Reports
Print ISSN 2045-2322
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 1
APA6 Citation Avila, C., Angulo-Preckler, C., Martín-Martín, R. P., Figuerola, B., Griffiths, H. J., & Waller, C. L. (2020). Invasive marine species discovered on non–native kelp rafts in the warmest Antarctic island. Scientific reports, 10(1),
Keywords Ecology; Environmental impact
Additional Information Received: 24 May 2019; Accepted: 17 January 2020; First Online: 31 January 2020; : The authors declare no competing interests.


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