A warming Antarctica is threatened by invasive species

As more tourists and researchers head to Antarctica — gotta see that ice before it’s gone! — scientists are worrying about a different sort of invasion: flora and fauna. “The more individuals of an alien species or nonnative species get there, the more likely something will be able to establish and live there,” says invasive-species researcher Maj de Poorter. Microscopic organisms are also a threat; scientists have found penguins infected with bacteria from human waste and seals infected with canine distemper. Annual bluegrass (common on putting greens) and North Atlantic spider crabs have also popped up. As Antarctica warms, its declining frigidity may scare off fewer tiny suitors. De Poorter says the alien invasion has not yet reached “plague proportions,” but that awareness is key: “I think it’s good we have this chance to be very proactive and protect it better than we’ve managed to do with the rest of the world.” Except for the whole melting-it thing.