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Importation of psychrotolerant fungi to Antarctica associated with wooden cargo packaging

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2018

Kevin A. Hughes
British Antarctic Survey, NERC, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
Marta Misiak
British Antarctic Survey, NERC, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
Yogabaanu Ulaganathan
National Antarctic Research Centre, University of Malaya, 50603 Lembah Pantai, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kevin K. Newsham
British Antarctic Survey, NERC, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
E-mail address:


The harsh climatic conditions and low levels of human activity in Antarctica, relative to other regions, means few non-native species have established. However, the risk of introductions is becoming greater as human activity increases. Non-native microorganisms can be imported to Antarctica in association with fresh food, cargo and personal clothing, but the likelihood of their establishment is not well understood. In January 2015, a wooden packing crate, heavily contaminated with fungi, was imported by aircraft from Punta Arenas, Chile, to Rothera Research Station, Antarctica. Mucor racemosus Bull. and two strains of Trichoderma viridescens (A.S. Horne & H.S. Will.) Jaklitsch & Samuels were isolated from the wood. Measurements of hyphal extension rates indicated that all three strains were psychrotolerant and capable of growth at 4°C, with M. racemosus growing at 0°C. The imported fungi could grow at rates equivalent to, or faster than, species isolated from Antarctic soils, suggesting that low temperature may not be a limiting factor for establishment. It is recommended that wood heat-treatment standards, equivalent to those described in the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures No. 15, are employed by national operators importing cargo into Antarctica, and that treated wood is adequately stored to prevent fungal contamination prior to transportation.

Biological Sciences
© Antarctic Science Ltd 2018 

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