06 Mar 2012:
Humans Carrying Seeds
Pose Threat to Antarctic Native Plants
The tens of thousands of tourists, scientists, and support personnel who visit Antarctica every year are carrying with them large numbers of seeds from alien plants that could one day pose a threat to Antarctica’s limited array of native plant species
. A team of scientists vacuumed the clothes and luggage of 850 visitors to Antarctica during the 2007-2008 summer season, finding more than 2,600 stowaway seeds from other regions of the world, including the Arctic and the Alps. That season, 33,000 tourists and 7,000 scientists and support personnel visited Antarctica, carrying with them an estimated 70,000 seeds, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
. The Antarctic continent only has two native species of vascular plants — a hair grass and a pearl wort — and so far scientists on the continent have discovered no alien plant species that have taken hold there. The study noted, however, that invasive plant species such as dandelions have taken root on some sub-Antarctic islands, and that as Antarctica continues to warm, alien plant species could eventually begin growing on the continent proper.
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
Yale Environment 360
articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia
, the online educational network. Visit the site.
Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
Photographer Robert Wintner documents the exquisite beauty and biodiversity of Cuba’s coral reefs, which are largely intact thanks to stifled coastal development in the communist nation. View the gallery.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
The Warriors of Qiugang
, a Yale Environment 360
video, chronicles a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant. It was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
Watch the video.
Top Image: aerial view of Iceland
. © Google & TerraMetrics.
A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.