Assessing the invasive risk of two non-native Agrostis species on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island

Abstract

Two small swards of two grass species (Agrostis stolonifera and Agrostis capillaris) previously unrecorded on Macquarie Island (54°30′S, 158°56′E) were found during the 2013–2014 austral summer. Their discovery leads to an assessment of their introduction status and invasive risk. Several evaluations were conducted on the plants regarding their extent, taxonomy, reproductive status and invasive potential. It is possible that the two species were accidentally introduced by human activities due to their proximity to human-frequented sites. No further occurrences were found, indicating that although the species were established, they were, respectively, restricted to two small swards of less than 1 m2 each. Observations of floral development in the field at the end of summer suggested that no sexually reproductive material was produced. Indoor cultivation of sampled specimens at the island station showed a faster development with mature flowers at the end of the summer but still no seeds. The bioclimatic niches of the two species were modeled with MaxEnt software. Biomodeling results indicate that reasonably favorable habitat is available on Macquarie Island for the successful colonization of both species. Agrostis stolonifera showed a higher invasion risk than A. capillaris. Our observations indicate that the two species are strong candidates for invading the island despite having phenological constraints. As a result, the two swards were removed by the island’s management authority. Further introductions and establishment of non-native plant species are expected to occur on sub-Antarctic islands under current global change scenarios.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank the Australian Antarctic Division, especially the staff involved in the logistics of the 2013–14 summer field season on Macquarie Island. Thanks go to the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Services for authorizations and support. Thanks to the Australian Antarctic Data Centre for supplying spatial information for this study. Special thanks must go to the 2013–14 summer crew on the Macquarie Island AAD station. Thanks to the directors of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Herbarium (WELT) and Allan Herbarium (CHR) for access to specimens of A. capillaris and A. stolonifera from sub-Antarctic islands. Finally, thanks also to three anonymous reviewers that improved the manuscript with their comments. LRP was in receipt of a SCAR-COMNAP Fellowship (Scientific Committee of Antarctic Research—Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs) with field research supported by University of New England (UNE) project AAC 4158. This research was also supported by ALIENANT project granted by the Spanish MINECO (Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness) I+D Programme (Ref. CTM2013-47381).

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Pertierra, L.R., Baker, M., Howard, C. et al. Assessing the invasive risk of two non-native Agrostis species on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island. Polar Biol 39, 2361–2371 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-016-1912-3

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Keywords

  • Agrostis stolonifera
  • Agrostis capillaris
  • Biological invasions
  • Ecological modeling
  • Biogeographic distributions
  • Phenological constraints