Hull fouling marine invasive species pose a very low, but plausible, risk of introduction to East Antarctica in climate change scenarios.
Aims: To identify potential hull fouling marine invasive species that could survive in East Antarctica presently and in the future. Location: Australia's Antarctic continental stations: Davis, Mawson and Casey, East Antarctica; and subantarctic islands: Macquarie Island and Heard and McDonald Islands. Methods: Our study uses a novel machine-learning algorithm to predict which currently known hull fouling MIS could survive in shallow benthic ecosystems adjacent to Australian Antarctic research stations and subantarctic islands, where ship traffic is present. We used gradient boosted machine learning (XGBoost) with four important environmental variables (sea surface temperature, salinity, nitrate and pH) to develop models of suitable environments for each potentially invasive species. We then used these models to determine if any of Australia's three Antarctic research stations and two subantarctic islands could be environmentally suitable for MIS now and under two future climate scenarios. Results: Most of the species were predicted to be unable to survive at any location between now and the end of this century; however, four species were identified as potential current threats and five as threats under future climate change. Asterias amurensis was identified as a potential threat to all locations. Main conclusions: This study suggests that the risks are very low, but plausible, that known hull fouling species could survive in the shallow benthic habitats near Australia's East Antarctica locations and suggest a precautionary approach is needed by way of surveillance and monitoring in this region, particularly if propagule pressure increases. While some species could survive as adults in the region, their ability to reach these locations and undergo successful reproduction is considered unlikely based on current knowledge.