Polar Biology

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 23–33 | Cite as

Pathways of alien invertebrate transfer to the Antarctic region

  • Melissa Houghton
  • Peter B. McQuillan
  • Dana M. Bergstrom
  • Leslie Frost
  • John van den Hoff
  • Justine ShawEmail author
Original Paper


Alien species pose an increasing threat to the biodiversity of the Antarctic region. Several alien species have established in Antarctic terrestrial communities, some representing novel functional groups such as pollinators and predators, with unknown impacts on ecosystem processes. We quantified the unintentional introduction of alien invertebrates to the Antarctic region over a 14-year period (2000–2013). To do this, probable pathways (Australian Antarctic cargo operations) and endpoints (research stations) for invertebrate introductions were searched. In addition, we undertook a stratified trapping programme targeting invertebrates on supply vessels in transit to the Antarctic region and also at cargo facilities in Australia during the 2012–2013 austral summer field season. Our results show that a diverse suite of invertebrate taxa were being introduced to the Antarctic region, with 1,376 individuals from at least 98 families observed or trapped during the sampling period. Many individuals were found alive. Diptera, Coleoptera and Lepidoptera were the most common taxa, comprising 74 % of the collection. At the family level, Phoridae (small flies) and Noctuidae (moths) were most commonly observed. Individuals from 38 different families were repeatedly introduced over the study period, sometimes in high numbers. Food and large cargo containers harboured the most individuals. These findings can assist in improving biosecurity protocols for logistic activities to Antarctica, thereby reducing the risk of invasions to the Antarctic region.


Alien species Invertebrates Biosecurity Quarantine Propagule pressure Sub-Antarctic 



This study was supported logistically and financially by the Australian Antarctic Division (as part of AAS project 4024) and the National Environmental Research Program. We thank all who assisted on this project: AAD staff and the Aurora Australis crew assisted at the cargo facility and on the ship. Rachel Alderman, Graham Cook, Justin Febey, John Kitchener, Mark Mangles, Aleks Terauds and Lauren Wise deployed insect traps on the high seas. Kate Kiefer was instrumental in the establishment of the Critter Kit sampling regime. Jennie Whinam documented the moth occurrence on a tourist ship. Sandra Potter provided data from 2002 to 2004. Aleks Terauds provided helpful comments on the manuscript. We are grateful to all expeditioners and Department of Primary Industries, Water and the Environment, Tasmania, who have participated in biosecurity surveillance over the last decade. This work was part of the Aliens in Antarctica SCAR program. We thank the three anonymous reviewers for providing comments that improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa Houghton
    • 1
    • 2
  • Peter B. McQuillan
    • 2
  • Dana M. Bergstrom
    • 1
  • Leslie Frost
    • 1
  • John van den Hoff
    • 1
  • Justine Shaw
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Australian Antarctic DivisionDepartment of the EnvironmentKingstonAustralia
  2. 2.School of Geography and Environmental StudiesUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  3. 3.Environmental Decision Group, School of Biological SciencesThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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