In the austral summer of 2007/2008, using the momentum of the International Polar Year (2007-2009), an international team of ecologists assessed propagule (e.g. seeds, spores, reproductive adult organisms) pressure and the vectors (e.g. clothing, containers, fresh produce) and pathways (e.g. Australia to Antarctica via air or via sea), in as integrated a fashion across the region as possible. ... Eight hundred and fifty people, travelling on 27 different ships and aircraft, making 55 different voyages, were sampled, focusing on seeds. Approximately half of those sampled were involved in national Antarctic programmes (14 ships/aircraft and 18 voyages), and half from tourist operations (13 ships and 37 voyages). Additionally, 5,000 questionnaires were completed to assess patterns of travel history. Approximately 30% of the visitors sampled carried plant seeds. Initial analyses indicated that the categories ‘ship and aircraft crew’ and ‘tourists’ had the lowest proportion of members carrying seeds, whereas ‘field-based scientist’ and ‘tourist support personnel’ had the highest proportion with seeds present.
Globally, many thousands of species have been redistributed beyond their natural dispersal ranges as a result of human activities. The introduction of non-native species can have severe consequences for indigenous biota with changes in both ecosystem structure and function. The Antarctic region has not escaped this threat. The introduction of invasive species, including vertebrates, ... invertebrates and plants, has altered substantially the ecosystems of many sub-Antarctic islands. In contrast, the Antarctic continent itself currently has few confirmed non-native species, but numbers are increasing. Possible future increases in human presence in the region, either through tourism, governmental operators or other commercial activities, will increase the risk of further non-native species introductions, while climate change may enhance the likelihood of establishment and range expansion. Ensuring effective biosecurity measures are implemented throughout the Antarctic region in a timely manner is an urgent challenge for the Antarctic Treaty nations and the Antarctic community as a whole.