Although the Antarctic has avoided the worst effects of alien species, its future seems endangered due to increasing natural and man-made pressures. Rapid changes in three major environmental variables have occurred in the Antarctic region during the last decades. In the short term terrestrial biota are likely to benefit from reduced environmental stresses, but in the long run the colonization of the region by lower latitude species with greater competitive ability will become increasingly important and can lead to large-scale changes in biological composition and trophic complexity in some existing Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems. Moreover, the recent dynamic climate changes combined with human activities in the Antarctic region might modify the status of several alien species which have hitherto been considered transient or persistent and could, therefore, become naturalized and threaten the native communities on a larger scale than today, or influence the status of naturalized species.
During thirty three expeditions to the Polish Arctowski Antarctic Station signifi− cant influences of human activity upon the environment have been recorded. Introductions of alien species, shifts of bird and seal breeding areas and decreases in both bird and seal populations, are the most obvious effects of human pressure. Though numbers of visits by tourists have increased during this period, impacts from expeditioners appear to be the main cause of changes. In particular, increasing numbers and mobility of summer groups at the station are the likely most influential factors.
Beach pollution is one of the most common hazards in present-day anthropogenic environments. Even in the remote Svalbard Archipelago, pollution impacts the beach system and can pose environmental threats. The significant increase in human activity observed in Svalbard over the last 20–30 years has resulted in a visible change in the amount of coastal pollution. A 5 km long transect of modern beach developed along Calypsostranda (Recherchefjorden, Bellsund) was surveyed in the summer of 2015 in order to characterize the beach pollution. During the survey 296 pieces of trash were found on beach surface. 82% of found trash was plastic, followed by glass (8%), and metal (5%). The comparison with previous pollution survey showed the significant increase of plastic waste in local beach environment. Similar problem has been recently recorded in other parts of Svalbard suggesting an urgent need for coastal pollution monitoring.
During three austral summer seasons cargo, expeditioner clothes and equipment of the Polish Antarctic Expedition were examined for the presence of alien propagules. Detailed inspections were undertaken at the station buildings, searching for any invertebrates. During each austral summer fresh fruits and vegetables were also inspected. A total of 359 invertebrates and their remains were found in cargo transported to Arctowski Station, or caught in the station’s facilities. The majority of samples were classified as cultivation pests (26%), food pests (43%), wood−destroying pests (4%), domestic insects and arachnids (15%). Through supply of the research station a wide range of alien organisms can be accidentally transported and ultimately introduced to the Antarctic. This study has clearly demonstrated that almost all cargo items can be a potential vector for alien organisms. Species from a broad range of biological groups can be transported to the Antarctic and remain in a viable state.