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Spatial distribution, habitat preference and colonization status of two alien terrestrial invertebrate species in Antarctica

  • Kevin A. Hughes (a1) and M. Roger Worland (a1)

The introduction of invasive species is one of the greatest threats to Earth’s biodiversity, as they can reduce native biodiversity and alter ecosystem structure and function. Currently, the only two known non-native terrestrial invertebrates in Antarctica are the chironomid midge Eretmoptera murphyi and the enchytraeid worm Christensenidrilus blocki. These invertebrates were probably introduced to ground near Signy Research Station, South Orkney Islands, during transplantation experiments in the late 1960s. Between 2007 and 2009, this study surveyed the area around the introduction site for midge larvae and worms to assess any change over the last four decades in their spatial distribution, habitat preference and colonization status. Eretmoptera murphyi was found in concentrations up to 4.1 × 105 larvae m-2 (mean 2.1 × 104 larvae m-2) at distances of up to 220 m from the probable introduction site (c. 35 000 m2), while C. blocki was only found close to the introduction site in low numbers. Significantly more E. murphyi larvae were found in peat and dead organic material (3.34 × 104 m-2) than in stony soil and gravel (1.52 × 104 m-2) or living moss and other plant material (1.16 × 104 m-2). Eretmoptera murphyi can no longer be considered a persistent alien as it clearly expanding its distribution, while C. blocki remains a persistent alien species.

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