The significance of the sub-Antarctic Kerguelen Islands for the assessment of the vulnerability of native communities to climate change, alien insect invasions and plant viruses

Abstract

The suite of environments and anthropogenic modifications of sub-Antarctic islands provide key opportunities to improve our understanding of the potential consequences of climate change and biological species invasions on terrestrial ecosystems. The profound impact of human introduced invasive species on indigenous biota, and the facilitation of establishment as a result of changing thermal conditions, has been well documented on the French sub-Antarctic Kerguelen Islands (South Indian Ocean). The present study provides an overview of the vulnerability of sub-Antarctic terrestrial communities with respect to two interacting factors, namely climate change and alien insects. We present datasets assimilated by our teams on the Kerguelen Islands since 1974, coupled with a review of the literature, to evaluate the mechanism and impact of biological invasions in this region. First, we consider recent climatic trends of the Antarctic region, and its potential influence on the establishment, distribution and abundance of alien insects, using as examples one fly and one beetle species. Second, we consider to what extent limited gene pools may restrict alien species’ colonisations. Finally, we consider the vulnerability of native communities to aliens using the examples of one beetle, one fly, and five aphid species taking into consideration their additional impact as plant virus vectors. We conclude that the evidence assimilated from the sub-Antarctic islands can be applied to more complex temperate continental systems as well as further developing international guidelines to minimise the impact of alien species.

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Acknowledgments

We are very grateful to Dr. Jean-François Voisin for helpful discussions concerning the distribution of aphids in the early 1960s and to Jean-Christophe Simon for valuable information on the genetics of Rhopalosiphum padi. The authors thank Dr. Gail Schofield and Dr. Jonathan Wilson for helpful amendments on a previous version of our manuscript. This research was supported by the “Institut Polaire Francais” (IPEV 136), the CNRS (Zone Atelier de Recherches sur l’Environnement Antarctique et Subantarctique) and the “Agence Nationale de la Recherche” (ANR-07-VULN-004, EVINCE). This research is linked with the SCAR Evolution and Biodiversity in the Antarctic research programme. Mathieu Laparie is supported by a fellow from the MENRT (Université de Rennes 1, France).

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Lebouvier, M., Laparie, M., Hullé, M. et al. The significance of the sub-Antarctic Kerguelen Islands for the assessment of the vulnerability of native communities to climate change, alien insect invasions and plant viruses. Biol Invasions 13, 1195–1208 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-011-9946-5

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Keywords

  • Colonisation
  • Endemic species
  • Environmental variables
  • Human impact
  • Introduced species
  • Island communities
  • Species richness