"Antarctic Plants Under Siege From Invasive Species, Report Finds"

"Scientists and ecotourists visiting the continent are bringing in thousands of seeds, scientists say, that have a better chance of taking root as temperatures warm. Pristine ecosystems are at risk."

"Alien species are invading Antarctica from as far away as the Arctic — and could fundamentally alter ecosystems in the world's last relatively untouched continent, an international team of scientists has reported.

The risks from these biological interlopers — seeds and plant material carried in on the shoes and clothing of well-meaning scientists, ecotourists and support staff — will increase as the icy content continues to thaw because of climate change, the scientists reported Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

People think of Antarctica as a pristine wilderness, but that is fast changing, said lead author Steven Chown of Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Over the last few decades, human activity there has increased dramatically. During the 2007-08 summer season, about 33,000 tourists and 7,000 scientists (including support personnel) made landfall there, bringing unintended ecological consequences, Chown said."
Amina Khan reports for the Los Angeles Times March 6, 2012.

Source: LA Times, 03/07/2012