Population structure, propagule pressure, and conservation biogeography in the sub-Antarctic: lessons from indigenous and invasive springtails

21 August 2007

The patterns in and the processes underlying the distribution of invertebrates among Southern Ocean islands and across vegetation types on these islands are reasonably well understood. However, few studies have examined the extent to which populations are genetically structured. Given that many sub-Antarctic islands experienced major glaciation and volcanic activity, it might be predicted that substantial population substructure and little genetic isolation-by-distance should characterize indigenous species. By contrast, substantially less population structure might be expected for introduced species. Here, we examine these predictions and their consequences for the conservation of diversity in the region. We do so by examining haplotype diversity based on mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I sequence data, from two indigenous (Cryptopygus antarcticus travei, Tullbergia bisetosa) and two introduced (Isotomurus cf. palustris, Ceratophysella denticulata) springtail species from Marion Island. We find considerable genetic substructure in the indigenous species that is compatible with the geological and glacialogical history of the island. Moreover, by employing ecological techniques, we show that haplotype diversity is likely much higher than our sequenced samples suggest. No structure is found in the introduced species, with each being represented by a single haplotype only. This indicates that propagule pressure is not significant for these small animals unlike the situation for other, larger invasive species: a few individuals introduced once are likely to have initiated the invasion. These outcomes demonstrate that sampling must be more comprehensive if the population history of indigenous arthropods on these islands is to be comprehended, and that the risks of within- and among-island introductions are substantial. The latter means that, if biogeographical signal is to be retained in the region, great care must be taken to avoid inadvertent movement of indigenous species among and within islands. Thus, quarantine procedures should also focus on among-island movements.