Invasive insect species cause harm to ecosystems located all over the world. Of course, invasive insects have never been much of a problem on the continent of Antarctica. This should not be hard to believe considering that Antarctica’s icy snow covered landscape and constant below zero temperatures are not suitable for many forms of animal life, especially insects. Despite this, there exists one particular species of midge that may soon establish a habitat on the continent. This is of serious concern to ecologists, as Antarctica’s ecosystem is relatively fragile, and the introduction of a new species, no matter how small, can have devastating effects on the region’s ecosystem.
The insect species known as Eretmoptera murphyi is a type of midge that is native to the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia. Midge species are well distributed all over the world, with the exception of permanently arid desert regions and frigid zones. Considering that Antarctica is a frigid desert, the Eretmoptera murphyi species of midge can be considered an exception to the above stated rule. Recently, researchers discovered this species on another island located farther south from their native area in the maritime Antarctic. This little known island is named Signy Island, and the midge was likely brought there unintentionally during the 1960s when researchers were conducting research on plants on the island. Researchers are not sure how this species has survived the frigid temperatures on the island for the past 50 years, but evidence shows that this midge species has been eating away at the peat within moss banks and turning it into soil. According Jesamine Bartlett, from the University of Birmingham, this midge’s presence on the island is problematic considering that it is eating away at the unique forms of vegetation that grow in the Antarctic region, such as hair grass and pearlwort. Researchers believe that this species will reach mainland Antarctica soon, which will only cause further issues to the already upset Antarctic ecosystem.
Do you believe that tourists in Antarctica could inadvertently transport non-native insects to the continent?