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Global ship movement could hamper biosecurity in Antarctica


right Now , Antarctica and the surrounding waters are surprisingly free of invasive species. However, according to new research, this situation may change in the not too distant future, thanks to a shocking level of connectivity with ports around the world. Ships can accidentally carry a wide range of marine life, which in turn can colonize new places (such as the world’s south polar), outgrow native life, and generally wreak havoc on the ecosystem. New research traces the paths of various research ships, cruise ships, and fishing boats navigating through the icy waters of the Antarctic.

According to Arlie McCarthy, a researcher in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey, these aquatic compounds all carry with them the risk of unwanted visitors. And visitors may have more opportunities to relocate than we previously thought.

“We know from other cold regions of the world, including the Arctic, that stuff that grows on ship hulls is definitely being transported from one place to another, and it’s one of the main sources of marine introductions around the world,” McCarthy said. Ars. “We also know that ships going to Antarctica have things already growing on them. What we didn’t know up until this point are good details about where those ships are going.”

McCarthy’s research suggests that there are 1,581 ports around the world connected to Antarctica. These are the ports from which at least one ship has traveled to the region, defined south of -60 ° latitude, as stipulated by the Antarctic Treaty. To determine this, she and her team looked at shipping data from Lloyd’s List Intelligence, an old and reliable source of marine data, port connection data and raw satellite data. It was allowed to track vessel activity between 2014 and 2018.

“They are somehow connected to Antarctica,” McCarthy said, referring to the ports. This means that countless species such as crabs, barnacles, and mosses from a large number of places could end up in the area. As global shipping increases — and as researchers and tourists continue to head to these waters — the possibilities for invasive species also increase. There is also concern about the movement of some species from the Arctic to the Antarctic, possibly on cruise or research ships. Species from the Arctic are likely to adapt to the cold and can thrive in cold Antarctica better than species brought from somewhere south of the equator.

Antarctic waters are mostly devoid of invasive marine species – there are some invasive weeds and insects – and the ocean is more isolated than many other oceans. This is largely due to the neighboring Southern Ocean, which has currents circling Antarctica. It is especially strong and forms a kind of barrier. “Anything coming from ocean currents from oceans in the far north, could veer away from Antarctica rather than actually cross into the Southern Ocean. They stop most things that come from currents,” McCarthy said, adding that seals and whales are able to Crossing these currents, even with mussels, barnacles and algae often.

Because the area is so cold, many organisms that you call home live more or less on the edge of what is physiologically possible. There is less food than anywhere else, and many creatures have adopted highly specialized behaviors to survive, so invasive species can do more harm than they would in a place where there is more food and warmth. For example, some life forms in Antarctica have developed polar giants, which means that they grow large, live slowly, and die old. Smaller, faster, faster-replicating species from elsewhere—assuming they can survive in the Antarctic—may outgrow the natives.

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