Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Invasive species entering Antarctica because of climate change

The extremely cold weather served for many years as the natural protection for Antarctica's native species. Invasive species didn't stand the chance to survive in Antarctica simply because the weather was too cold. But the impact of climate change is constantly growing, the temperatures are rising, and with these changes invasive species are looking more and more like a huge threat to Antarctica's native ecosystems.

The Swedish scientists have already spotted large populations of red king crabs over a 30-mile stretch of deep-sea habitat along the western Antarctica Peninsula during the recent Antarctic summer. Up until recently the weather was too cold for crabs to survive but in the last ten years or so the average ocean temperature around Antarctica has increased by around 1 degree Fahrenheit. Not that big increase, but big enough for king crabs to expand their territory.

The rise of king crab population in Antarctica waters could spell serious trouble for species such as mussels, brittle stars, and sea urchins. The problem is that these species haven't developed effective defense systems against predators since up to now cold weather managed to isolate them from predators.

The isolation period could soon come to an abrupt end for many species in Antarctica, and sensible ecosystems of Antarctica will find it extremely hard to survive the invasion of foreign predatory species.

Their isolation has lasted tens of millions of years but climate change could change all of this in only couple of decades time.

The uniqueness of species in Antarctica is under great threat. These species will not only have to withstand climate change but also hordes of invasive animals that are slowly but surely making their way to once impenetrable kingdom of ice.

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