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Measuring and managing invasive species threats in the Arctic

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Ware, CJ (2014) Measuring and managing invasive species threats in the Arctic. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Several decades of invasive species research have yielded a broad understanding of the nature of species
transfer mechanisms and associated threats globally. This is not true of the Arctic, however, a region where
increasing human activity and ongoing climate change is expected to promote species invasion. This thesis
examines the potential for both terrestrial and marine non-indigenous species (NIS) to be introduced to and
establish in the Arctic under present and future climatic conditions. Throughout, the work uses the high-Arctic
archipelago Svalbard as a model for the wider Arctic region. The research focuses on two of the most well-described
pathways of species introduction globally, human visitation and shipping, both of which are
increasing in intensity in Svalbard. Potential for species introduction and establishment is examined by
quantifiying and identifying propagule loads transferred to the Arctic; developing and testing species
identification methods; evaluating present and forecasting future habitat suitability for NIS; measuring the
spread of established non-indigenous vascular plants; and testing the efficacy of management measures
designed to prevent further species introduction.
Results demonstrate high plant propagule transport by people travelling to highly-visited Arctic regions is
occurring. Furthermore, propagule pressure associated with ship hull fouling poses immediate risks, while if
more stringent management related to ships’ ballast water discharge is not enacted this vector will pose an
increasing risk over the coming century. Improved vector screening methods were achieved through testing a
molecular species identification approach for organisms transported with ships, but the approach was found
to be inefficient in a biosecurity management context. Climate changes, and particularly temperature
increases, over the coming century are expected to increase Svalbard habitat suitability for both terrestrial and
marine species. Acknowledgment of the negative impacts NIS may have in Svalbard has led to the
implementation of preventative management measures designed to reduce species transfer by visitors and
ships; however, these were found to have limited effect. Scope for improved management is outlined.
Where species invasion risks are found to exist at the transport stage, the body of invasion ecology knowledge
suggests a precautionary approach whereby NIS introduction should be prevented. The imperative to ensure
this in polar regions has historically been lacking, owing largely to the strength of climatic barriers, and
assumed weak propagule pressure. By quantifying propagule pressure across different pathways and vectors,
and estimating changing habitat suitability under forecast climatic conditions, this research provides the basis
upon which to develop more informed biosecurity management for Svalbard. Moreover, given the similarity in
pathways of species introduction across the Arctic region, the work presented here suggests an Arctic-wide
need to address management and policy gaps.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Arctic, barcoding, climate change, habitat suitability, invasive species, invasive species management, shipping, vectors of species transfer
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2014 the Author

Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2015 02:19
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:52
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