Ice-free area expansion compounds the non-native species threat to Antarctic terrestrial biodiversity

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Warming across ice-covered regions will result in changes to both the physical and climatic environment, revealing new ice-free habitat and new climatically suitable habitats for non-native species establishment. Recent studies have independently quantified each of these aspects in Antarctica, where ice-free areas form crucial habitat for the majority of terrestrial biodiversity. Here we synthesise projections of Antarctic ice-free area expansion, recent spatial predictions of non-native species risk, and the frequency of human activities to quantify how these facets of anthropogenic change may interact now and in the future. Under a high-emissions future climate scenario, over a quarter of ice-free area and over 80% of the ~14 thousand km2 of newly uncovered ice-free area could be vulnerable to invasion by one or more of the modelled non-native species by the end of the century. Ice-free areas identified as vulnerable to non-native species establishment were significantly closer to human activity than unsuitable areas were. Furthermore, almost half of the new vulnerable ice-free area is within 20 km of a site of current human activity. The Antarctic Peninsula, where human activity is heavily concentrated, will be at particular risk. The implications of this for conservation values of Antarctica and the management efforts required to mitigate against it are in need of urgent consideration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253–257
Number of pages5
JournalBiological Conservation
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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