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Historical introductions to the Antarctic region – including Marion Island

Sheep on Marion Island

A team of researchers from SAEF (Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future, An Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative) has published the most complete and up-to-date dataset of alien species in the Antarctic region

SAEF indicates this dataset “provides information on the identity, localities, establishment, eradication status, dates of introduction, habitat, and impact. It shows most alien species have been found on the sub-Antarctic islands (1125 species), with 135 species identified in Antarctica. The evidence indicates close to half the alien species aren’t having an invasive impact. However, the barriers to their establishment will likely weaken in future climate change scenarios. So this dataset offers baseline knowledge to support researchers and policymakers in their offers to prevent biological invasions in the region”. 

Rachel Leihy and her team from Monash University and La Trobe University turned to the Antarctic Legacy of South Africa Archive for images of various species introduced to the sub-Antarctic Marion Island. Images found on the archive of alien species include that of sheep, trees, chicken, cats, dogs, etc. These images were used a Nature blog post, Alien species in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean Islands
Story of the featured image: Image of the last sheep taken to Marion Island, before they removed all livestock in 1978 (Image Credit: Prof Valdon Smith). 
Rachel Leihy, writes that “when early explorers, sealers, whalers, scientists and settlers set sail for the sub-Antarctic islands, they went with livestock and vegetable seeds for food – with varying levels of success. Over the last century, attitudes have shifted towards the value of releasing non-native species into these pristine environments. On the Antarctic continent this is reflected in the adoption of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, which prohibits the introduction of all alien species (except under strict permit conditions). In the sub-Antarctic islands (which are managed by various countries) there has been an increasing focus on biosecurity and invasive species management and eradication programs. This not only means no more sheep, but has also resulted in the need for more open and accessible datasets on alien species to support conservation and policy decisions”. 
We are pleased that the ALSA Archive could contribute to the visual aspect of this research and we encourage anyone that has material from the Antarctic region to come in contact with Ria Olivier
The ALSA Archive has various collections and currently stands on 26036 entries. We are waiting for your contribution! 
Anche Louw, South African Polar Research Infrastructure (SAPRI DPS Node), 02 May 2023 

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