The alien terrestrial invertebrate fauna of the High Arctic archipelago of Svalbard: potential implications for the native flora and fauna
Experience from the Antarctic indicates that the establishment of alien species may have significant negative effects on native flora and fauna in polar regions and is considered to be amongst the greatest threats to biodiversity. But, there have been few similar studies from the Arctic. Although the terrestrial invertebrate inventory of the Svalbard Archipelago is amongst the most complete for any region of the Arctic, no consideration has yet been made of alien terrestrial invertebrate species, their invasiveness tendencies, threat to the native biology or their route of entry. Such baseline information is critical for appropriate management strategies. Fifteen alien invertebrate species have established in the Svalbard environment, many of which have been introduced via imported soils. Biosecurity legislation now prohibits such activities. None of the recorded established aliens yet show invasive tendencies but some may have locally negative effects. Ten species are considered to be vagrants and a further seven are classified as observations. Vagrants and the observations are not believed to be able to establish in the current tundra environment. The high connectivity of Svalbard has facilitated natural dispersal processes and may explain why few alien species are recorded compared to isolated islands in the maritime Antarctic. The vagrant species observed are conspicuous Lepidoptera, implying that less evident vagrant species are also arriving regularly. Projected climate change may enable vagrant species to establish, with results that are difficult to foresee.
Keywords: Introduced; microarthropod; enchytraeid; Acari; biodiversity.
(Published: 15 September 2015)
Citation: Polar Research 2015, 34, 27364, http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/polar.v34.27364
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