Probability of Seaweed Invasions into Antarctica (SINVA): Invasiveness vs. Invasibility


Professor Dr. Kai Bischof
Universität Bremen 
Fachbereich 02: Biologie und Chemie 
Abteilung Meeresbotanik 

Project Description

Biological invasions are globally increasing, facilitated by a growing worldwide connectivity and changing climate conditions. Not every species introduced to a new environment will act as an invader, but will do so if released from its natural controlling factors. The invasiveness of a species is set by its biological traits (i.e. physiological tolerance, reproductive strategies). In turn, the invasibility of a potential recipient region is determined by the physico-chemical (i.e. suitable climate and substrate conditions) and biological (i.e. presence of competitors and grazers) settings. Invasive seaweeds have the potential to significantly impair structure and function of shallow water benthic ecosystems with detrimental effects on local biodiversity. The introduction of invasive seaweed species into Antarctica has not been reported yet, but might happen in the near future supported by climate change (entailing temperature increase and a weakening of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current) and steadily increasing shipping activities for tourism, but also scientific purposes. Three seaweed species, which have been recently introduced to the Patagonia/Magallanes/Tierra del Fuego region are considered candidates for further spread into Antarctica. Based on a combined approach of experimental ecophysiology (to determine invasiveness) and habitat mapping (to characterize invasibility) we will generate predictive species distribution models for the three candidate species. Overall, this project will determine the likelihood of seaweed species recently introduced to Patagonia and Magallanes to further expand their range to the South Shetlands and the Western Antarctica Peninsula. As the final outcome a predictive map of future seaweed establishments at the Western Antarctic Peninsula will be presented. In this way, the project substantially contributes to two of the overarching cross-disciplinary research topics of the Priority Program 1158 on Antarctic Research: Gateway to lower latitudes and Response to environmental change.

DFG Programme: Infrastructr Priority Programmes

International Connection: Chile, Spain

Cooperation partners: Professor Dr. Andres MansillaDr. Brezo Martínez

Term since 2016