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Day 2 afternoon plenary

Title: Conservation and invasive species on Australia’s sub-Antarctic islands

Presenter: Justine Shaw

Environmental Decision Group, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland
Terrestrial Nearshore Ecosystems, Australian Antarctic Division

Authors: Justine Shaw1,2, Aleks Terauds2, Jenny Scott3, Dana Bergstrom2, Hugh Possingham1

1 - Environmental Decision Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland

2 - Terrestrial Nearshore Ecosystems, Australian Antarctic Division

3 - School of Geography and Environmental Sciences, University of Tasmania


Australia’s two sub-Antarctic islands Macquarie and Heard Island have different invasion status. Macquarie has been invaded by several vertebrates, invertebrates and three alien plants, resulting in altered trophic interactions and ecosystem structure. Heard Island has incurred few aliens, one plant and two invertebrates, making it the one of the least invaded sub-Antarctic islands. Quantifying the impacts of these introduced species and how they alter ecosystem function is essential to facilitate management decisions and actions.

Here we examine the alien plants and invertebrates of these island ecosystems. We quantify significant changes in distribution and abundance of invasive plants on Macquarie over 30 years. Further, we determine the interactions of these invasive species with other taxa on the island, in particular, how plant invasions can influence soil fauna. The extent of Poa annua on Heard Island is also examined. By comparing and contrasting the same invasive species across different islands the drivers of these invasions can be determined and feasibility of eradication assessed.

We quantify the decision-making process for the conservation of these islands and our research will inform the development of policy and management practice for invasive species.

BIO: Dr Justine Shaw is a Research Fellow with the Environmental Decision Group, University of Queensland. Her research is a collaborative project between UQ and the AAD, and part of the National Environmental Research Program. Justine has been working in the sub-Antarctic for 17 years. She has travelled to Macquarie, Heard, Marion, Prince Edward Islands and several of the NZ sub-antarctic islands. Her research examines the interaction of invasive and native species, island eradications and protected area design and Antarctic biogeography. She has been employed as a research scientist at Australian and international universities and worked for state and federal government. Justine is committed to Antarctic conservation and most importantly delivering evidence based science into policy and management.

Title: Geoscience data for informed marine management of the East Antarctic margin

Presenter: Alix Post

Geoscience Australia

Authors: Alix Post1, Olivia Wilson1, Phil O’Brien2

1 - Geoscience Australia, Canberra, GPO Box 378, ACT 2601,,

2 - Department of Environment and Geography, Macquarie University, NSW 2109,


Effective management of the marine environment is a major challenge for scientists and policy makers alike, and is compounded by the patchy knowledge of biological distributions. For this reason, marine management is increasingly being underpinned by the knowledge of marine environments provided by physical datasets. On many parts of the Antarctic margin, seafloor morphology, depth and sediment type have been shown to be strongly associated with the distribution and diversity of seafloor organisms.

The network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) proposed for East Antarctica was primarily based on physical data, and for the benthic regime this consisted chiefly of seabed geomorphology and satellite bathymetry data. Since the MPA network was designed, further work has been undertaken to compile ship-based bathymetry and sedimentary data. These datasets, which will form the basis for this presentation, provide a better understanding of the distribution of seafloor habitats within the 7 proposed MPAs, and indicate that they encompass a broad range of environments. These environments include deep muddy basins, scoured sandy shelf banks, ruggedly eroded slope canyons and muddy deep sea plains. The diversity of physical environments within the proposed MPAs suggests that they also likely support a diverse range of benthic communities.

Title: Spatial and Temporal Heterogeneity in Terrestrial Antarctic Microbial Communities: a baseline survey

Presenter: Craig Cary

International Centre for Terrestrial Antarctic Research, University of Waikato

Authors: Cary C1, Lee C1, McDonald I1, Bottos E1, Pointing S2

1 - International Centre for Terrestrial Antarctic Research, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton, 3240, New Zealand

2 - Auckland University of Technology


The McMurdo Dry Valley soil ecosystem is exceptionally simple and provides a highly manageable framework for elucidating interactions between abiotic factors and soil microbial communities. Reported dominance of aeolian transport in biota distribution and extremely low estimated turnover rates contribute to an assumption that, despite clear physicochemical heterogeneity within the region, Dry Valley soil microbial communities are homogeneous and respond to change very slowly. Our ongoing research challenges these beliefs by revealing incredibly localized phylogenetic diversity and rapid turnover rates in Dry Valley soil microbiota.

The New Zealand Terrestrial Antarctic Biocomplexity Survey (nzTABS) is a 5-year project designed to elucidate the present biodiversity and predict the effects of pending change on the unique Dry Valley ecosystem. Utilizing an integrated and interdisciplinary approach at the landscape-scale, nzTABS mapped 6 of the Dry Valleys onto a mosaic of “tiles”, which is represented in a GIS digital elevation model. These tiles cover unique combinations of aspect, elevation, slope, and geomorphological features in order to capture the physicochemical heterogeneities present in the study area. A subset of the tiles was statistically selected to encompass various habitats across the landscape and subject to comprehensive field surveys and sampling. Soil samples collected from 4 Dry Valleys were subjected to biogeochemical analyses and high throughput DNA sequencing to characterize the microbial communities. Results show that the communities are structurally and phylogenetically distinct, and possess vastly different levels of microbial diversity. Geochemical analyses reveal correlation between physicochemical parameters and compositions of bacterial and cyanobacterial communities. In a second study using similar methodologies, we monitored the effects on the microbial communities after placing a mummified seal on a patch of pristine Dry Valley soil. We found that Dry Valley soil microbiota responded quickly to changes in macroclimatic conditions, with a dramatic change in community structure and significant loss of diversity. Our results indicate that physico- and geo-chemistry play major roles in shaping and maintaining microbiology of ice-free areas of Antarctica, and the surprisingly localized diversities of Dry Valley soil microbial communities indicate extraordinary spatial heterogeneity. These observations underscore the need to re-evaluate current ideas of microbial biogeography, raises issues regarding microbial biosecurity within the Dry Valley system, and signals the potential loss of biodiversity induced by changes in macroclimatic under current climate change predictions. The launch of a new continental wide Antarctic Genetic Archive (AGAr) for the long-term storage of Antarctic genetic samples will also be presented.

Title: Antarctic ecotoxicology, risk assessment and remediation: an Australian perspective

Presenter: Catherine King

Australian Antarctic Division

Authors: King C, Wasley J, Cooper A, Snape I, Riddle M
Australian Antarctic Division, Kingston, Tasmania 7050, Australia


There are a range of chemical contaminants of concern in Antarctic and subantarctic marine and terrestrial environments as a result of human activities, including past and current waste disposal practices, accidental fuel spills, and ongoing sewage discharge from research stations. Australia’s Antarctic science program led by the Australian Antarctic Division includes a program dedicated to research on environmental change and the protection and conservation of Antarctica’s terrestrial and nearshore ecosystems. Within this program, significant research efforts have been dedicated to ecotoxicological assessments of the effects of key contaminants on local biota. Information on the response and sensitivity of Antarctic species and communities is being used to form the basis of ecological risk assessment procedures and appropriate environmental guidelines and remediation targets for Antarctic and subantarctic regions. A summary of this work to date and how it is being used to inform policy and to direct operations in the Australian Antarctic Territory will be presented using examples of research conducted on fuels, metals, operational chemicals and complex effluent discharges.

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Key dates

  • 11th June 2013
    Registrations close
  • 21st June 2013
    Registrations at the AAD open for staff
  • 24th June 2013
    Registrations at the venue open
  • 24th June 2013
    Conference commences
  • 26th June 2013
    Conference concludes

More key dates…

This page was last modified on 6 June 2013.