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Falkland Islands

Last edited: Jun 29, 2022, 3:09 PM

About the Territory

The Falkland Islands are an archipelago made up of two main islands, East and West Falkland and about 750 smaller offshore islands and islets. They are situated in the South Atlantic to the east of Argentina, between 51°S and 53°S latitudes and 57°30’W and 61°30’W longitudes and cover an area of 12,173 km2. The average annual rainfall in the capital of Stanley is low at 635 mm and the climate is cool temperate due to oceanic conditions with average monthly temperatures ranging from 2°C in July to 9°C in January.

Map of the Falkland Islands

The first recorded sighting of the Falkland Islands was by English Captain John Davis in 1592. In 1764 the French diplomat and explorer, Louis Antoin de Bougainville, established a settlement on East Falkland at Port Louis. The following year, unaware of the French Settlement, Commodore John Byron landed at Port Egmont on West Falkland and claimed the Islands for the British Crown. Subsequently, the Spanish Government forced both French and British interests off the islands and appointed a Governor at Port Louis. After the withdrawal of both British and Spanish forces, the Islands were claimed by the newly independent Buenos Aires Government who appointed Louis Vernet Commander of the Island in 1829. Vernet was evicted and the East Falkland settlement destroyed by the US Navy after he had seized three American sealing ships; most settlers were persuaded to leave and the Americans declared the Islands free of all Government. In 1833 the British Government formally re-occupied the Islands and established a capital at Stanley in 1845.

The ongoing dispute between Argentina and the UK over sovereignty of the Islands led to their invasion by Argentine forces in April 1982. After ten weeks of war the British forces retook the Islands and the Argentinian forces surrendered on 14 June 1982.

The 2016 census gives a resident population of 3,200, of whom about 77% live in Stanley. Historically the economy has been based on high quality wool production, but since the mid-1980s there has been a move into additional activities such as meat production, and the main source of income is now from offshore fisheries licences, supported by amounts from agriculture and tourism. Oil exploration has contributed significantly to the economy over the last 5 years and an oil industry is now under development.

Biodiversity

The Kew database states that 417 plant species have been found growing wild in the Falklands, of which 175 are native, including 14 endemic species. There are at least 168 species and subspecies of moss, of which 43 have not been recorded outside the Falklands, and 127 known Liverworts, including three endemic species. There are 46 species of spider of which 16 are thought to be endemic and eight introduced from Europe; 250 species of insect have been recorded including many introductions. There are only two species of native freshwater fish – the native Zebra Trout Aplochiton zebra and the Falkland Minnow Galaxius maculates.

The Falkland Islands are recognised as an endemic bird area with 61 resident species, including two endemics – the Falkland Flightless Steamer Duck Trachyeres brachydactyle and Cobb’s Wren Troglodytes cobbi. Five penguin species are found, and the island are also known for vast colonies of seabirds, including about two-thirds of the world’s population of the black-browed albatross, and 40% of the world’s southern giant petrels.

The only native land mammal, the Falkland Island Fox or Warrah Dusicyon australis was persecuted to extinction by early European settlers. 24 marine mammal species are recorded from Falkland waters.

Policy and legislation

The Government of the Falkland Islands has an Environment Charter signed jointly with the UK Government. Guiding Principle 7 is to safeguard and restore native species, habitats and landscape features, and control or eradicate invasive species. Under the associated commitment 2 the Government of the Falkland Islands will ensure the protection and restoration of key habitats, species and landscape features through legislation and appropriate management structures and mechanisms, including a protected area policy, and attempt the control and eradication of invasive species. Implementation progress was reviewed in 2007, 2010 and 2016.

The Falkland Islands Government is committed to protecting the unique biodiversity as underpinned in the Biodiversity Framework 2016-2030. The Biodiversity Framework is a threat-based document which outlines the priorities required with regards to the wider Falkland Islands environment. The document sets out the environmental vision for the Falklands; “We will conserve and enhance the natural diversity, ecological processes and heritage of the Falkland Islands, in harmony with sustainable economic development”.

The Biodiversity Framework makes room for Strategies and Action Plans to be implemented to meet the goals for biodiversity and the environment. Current strategies within the framework are:

  • Biosecurity & Invasives Strategy 2017-2020
  • Falkland Islands Ecoregions, Habitats, Species and Sites Strategy 2016-2020

A South Atlantic Invasive Species Strategy and Action Plan agreed by the Governments of Ascension Island, Saint Helena, Tristan da Cunha, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands was published in October 2010. This set out a number of strategic aims for the South Atlantic Overseas Territories in order to develop effective prevention and response measures for invasive species and thus reduce damage to their natural heritage, communities, livelihoods and options for future development. Key actions are grouped under five objectives: (A) Building awareness and support; (B) Co-ordination, co-operation and capacity-building; (C) Prevention; (D) Monitoring, early detection and rapid response; (E) Control, management and restoration.

An invasive plants strategy is being produced by botanists from Kew Gardens. A workshop was held in late 2012 to engage with those involved with invasive plants. The strategy has is due to be completed in mid-2013. Strategies for priority invasive plants are in place and are being implemented with varying success.

The first Biosecurity Policy is being developed in 2020, together with new biosecurity legislation, with provisions for pre-border, border and post-border regulation of invasive species.

Invasive species and biosecurity

A total of 336 non-native species (marine and terrestrial) was recorded for the Falklands by the RSPB Stocktake (Churchyard et al 2014).

Taxon

Total species

Non-native species

Invertebrates

1,315

48

Vertebrates

249

17

Plants

1,496

271

Problems with invasive non-native species

Introduced Brown Trout Salmo trutta are implicated in the largescale decline of the native Zebra Trout which is now restricted to the relatively few areas that the former has not reached. Introduced Patagonian foxes Dusicyon griseus, cats Felis catus and rats Rattus spp. have had impacts on breeding seabirds and have caused the restriction of Cobb’s Wren Troglodytes cobbi and Tussacbirds Cinclodes antarcticus to cat and rat free islands.

Priority invasive non-native species and actions

Between 2000 and 2010 Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) were eradicated from 20 islands in the Falkland Islands.  Patagonian grey foxes (Lycalopex griseus) were eradicated from 320ha Tea Island in 2008, followed by Norway rats in 2009. On islands on which rats have been eradicated, bird populations have recovered, and passerine species richness is indistinguishable from that found on islands historically free of rats.

 

Invasive calafate Berberis buxifolia.

The list of introduced plant species is not complete, with many species observed in Stanley gardens not yet recorded. Of the known introduced plants, the risk assessment procedure identified 22 introduced plants scoring above 15, which are therefore considered invasive species in the Falkland Islands (Whitehead 2008).

Potentially invasive plant species scoring 15 or above in the risk assessment

Common Name:

Scientific Name:

Score:

Calafate

Berberis buxifolia

19

Gorse

Ulex europaeus

19

Broom

Cytisus scoparius

18

Darwin’s barberry

Berberis darwinii

18

European ragwort

Senecio jacobea

18

Oxford ragwort

Senecio squalidus

18

Creeping thistle

Cirsium arvense

16

Chilean rhubarb

Gunnera tinctoria

16

Spear thistle

Cirsium vulgare

16

Slender thistle

Carduus tenuiflorus

16

Hemlock

Conium maculatum

16

Scotch heather

Calluna vulgaris

16

Stone crop

Sedum acre

16

Curled/yellow dock

Rumex crispus

15

Broad-leaved dock

Rumex obtusifolius

15

Mouse-ear hawkweed

Hieracium pilosella

15

Orange hawkweed

Hieracium aurantiacum

15

Lupin

Lupinus arboreus

15

Spiny sow-thistle

Sonchus asper

15

Smooth sow-thistle

Sonchus oleraceus

15

Marram Grass

Ammophila arenaria

15

Rowan

Sorbus aucuparia

15

 

 

 

Nineteen introduced animals scored above 15 in the Whitehead (2008) risk assessment and are therefore considered invasive species in the Falkland Islands.

Potentially invasive animal species scoring 15 or above in the risk assessment

Common Name:

Scientific Name:

Score

Black rat

Rattus rattus

20

Norway rat

Rattus norvegicus

19

House mouse

Mus musculus

17

Patagonian fox

Lycalopex griseus

17

Cat

Felis catus*

17

Greylag goose

Anser anser*

17

Goat

Capra hircus*

17

Greenbottle fly

Lucilia sericata

17

Greenbottle fly

Protophormia terraenovae

17

European earwig

Forficula auricularia

16

Sheep

Ovis aries*

16

Brown hare

Lepus europaeus

16

South American guanaco

Lama guanicoe

15

Cattle

Bos Taurus*

15

European rabbit

Oryctolagus cuniculus

15

Nth American cotton-tail rabbit

Sylvilagus spp.

15

Reindeer

Rangifer tarandus*

15

Brown trout

Salmo trutta

15

Pig

Sus scrofa*

15

Note: Species highlighted with * are currently domestic and/ or agricultural species that would only be considered for control if or when animals are feral or unmanaged.

In the Falkland Islands, up until the 1980s, livestock was put seasonally onto most ground, including offshore islands. However, today due to the low prices for wool and meat, small offshore islands and some farmland areas have been fenced and de-stocked. Most livestock in the Falkland Islands are actively and responsibly managed for agriculture, with currently approximately 500,000 sheep and 6,000 cattle island-wide. There are also a small number of goats, with two flocks on two small islands, two reindeer herds and 171 pigs.

Biosecurity

In 2017 a biosecurity gap analysis (PDF) was completed. Overall, biosecurity capacity is considered adequate, but with limited facilities. A framework is in place for non-native species risk analysis. Border operations are delivered together with customs staff under a Memorandum of Understanding. It is estimated that there is a good level of awareness and generally a high level of compliance.

Capability is weak for contingency planning, surveillance and rapid response, except for animal disease risks such as Foot and Mouth disease, and rat incursions on islands where rodent eradications have been attempted.
Guidelines for risk analysis have been developed, defining three categories of risk depending on familiarity with the commodity. This was expanded, with training and the development of simplified pest risk assessment templates under a CABI-led Darwin Plus project (DPLUS074) which ended in 2020.

In 2018 a pathway analysis was completed. Pathways of introduction remain relatively few, with commercial passenger flights from Chile and Brazil around once a week, and twice weekly military flights from the UK. Cargo comes mainly from the UK and South America by ship.

Horizon scanning was carried out in 2019, identifying a total of 21 new invasive species of concern which have the potential to arrive within the next 5 – 10 years; read a report on the horizon scanning (PDF).  

Projects

The South Atlantic Invasive Species project (SAIS) was undertaken during the period December 2006 to December 2009. It was funded by the Ninth European Development Fund and carried out by the RSPB in partnership with the Governments of Ascension Island, St Helena, Tristan da Cunha, the Falkland Island, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands, Falklands Conservation and the St Helena National Trust. The overall goal of the SAIS project was to enhance the economic prosperity and quality of life of the people of the UK Overseas Territories (OTs) in the South Atlantic through the reduction of the threat that invasive species pose to the native biodiversity of the South Atlantic UKOTs, read more information (external link). In 2010 a SAIS Strategy and Action Plan (external link) was developed, and in 2015 a regional workshop was held in 2015 in Ascension Island to implement key actions.

10 projects were funded under the Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP) between 2004 and 2012. Projects include native plant and bird restoration, and development of management plans and conservation programmes for marine and terrestrial species.

The Falklands have received a number of Darwin Initiative funded projects, listed here. Find project details and reports (external link):

  • Biodiversity action planning in the Falkland Islands (DPLUS0002)
  • Lower plants inventory and conservation in the Falkland Islands (DPLUS017)
  • Ascension Island Marine Sustainability (AIMS) – a fisheries and marine biodiversity project (DPLUS021)
  • Building capacity for habitat restoration in the Falkland Islands (DPLUS023)
  • Marine spatial planning in the Falkland Islands (DPLUS027)
  • Enhancing biosecurity and biological control capacity in the Falkland Islands (DPLUS033)
  • Dolphins of the kelp: Data priorities for Falkland’s inshore cetaceans. (DPLUS042)
  • Mapping Falklands and South Georgia coastal margins for Spatial Planning (DPLUS065)
  • Building foundations to monitor and conserve Falklands marine forest habitats (DPLUS068)
  • Fine scaling the design of Falkland Islands Marine Management Areas (DPLUS071)
  • Conserving Falklands' whale populations: addressing data deficiencies for informed management (DPLUS082)
  • Soil map and online database as climate change mitigation tools (DPLUS083)
  • Seabird sentinels: mapping potential bycatch risk using bird-borne radar (DPLUS092)

A two-year project (Defra CR 0492), was carried out by CABI in January 2011, looking at the impact of invasive non-native species in the UK Overseas Territories in the South Atlantic and the potential for biological control. Read setails of this project and the final report on the results for the Falklands (external link).

The project ‘Tackling invasive non-native species in the UK Overseas Territories’ was implemented between 2016 and 2020 to strengthen biosecurity in the OTs, funded by the UK government Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). The Falklands benefitted from a number of activities to strengthen its biosecurity, including: pathway analysis, horizon scanning, pathway action planning, legislative support for drafting biosecurity legislation, contingency planning for wildlife diseases, access to online learning, and technical support. Read further details.

The Falklands was also involved in the CSSF project ‘Natural Capital in the Caribbean and South Atlantic Overseas Territories’ from 2016 to 2019, and delivered to seven OTs by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). The programme of work involves mapping and valuing the participating OTs natural capital assets through integrating ecological data, satellite data, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and economic assessments. Find project details and reports (external link).

Useful information

Information for visitors

Before travelling please ensure all items are clean, free from organic materials such as mud, faeces, seeds and invertebrates:

  • Check your footwear, outdoor clothing and day packs to make sure they are clean and free from weed seeds, mud, invertebrates and plant material. If possible we recommend that you travel with new outdoor clothing and equipment. Shake out or vacuum all the compartments and pockets before you pack.
  • If you have been camping, check that your tent and other equipment is clean, dry and free of dirt and invertebrates such as ants and spiders. Shake it out before you pack it up for travel and ensure no soil remains on tent pegs.
  • If you have been hiking, visiting a wilderness area, farm or zoo, make sure your footwear and clothes are clean and free from seeds, mud and faeces. Check boot soles for mud between the treads, Velcro fastenings for seeds and plant material, and shake out or vacuum pockets to remove any dirt and plant material.
  • If you are carrying golf, fishing or other sports and outdoor equipment with you, make sure they are clean, dry and free from dirt and any live creatures.

It is prohibited to import live plant material or animals without an import licence. Honey and bee products are also prohibited.

Biosecurity requirements for visitors and returning residents (external link)

Contact

Falkland Island Government Department of Agriculture

Bypass Road,

Stanley FIQQ 1ZZ,

Falkland Islands

Tel: +500 27355

Documents

  • Barnsley, S., Cary, E., Pienkowski, M. and Wensink, C. (Eds) (2016).  Review of performance by 2016 of UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies in implementing the 2001 Environment Charters or their equivalents and moving towards the Aichi Targets and Sustainable Development Targets. UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum, April 2016.
  • Churchyard, T., Eaton, M., Hall, J., Millett, J., Farr, A., Cuthbert, R. and Stringer, C.  (2014). The UK’s wildlife overseas: a stocktake of nature in our Overseas Territories.  Sandy, UK: RSPB.
  • Edgar, P. (2010). The Amphibians and reptiles of the UK Overseas Territories, Crown Dependencies and Sovereign Base Areas: Species Inventory and Overview of Conservation and Research Priorities. Bournemouth, UK: Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.
  • Proctor, D. and Fleming, L. V., eds. (1999). Biodiversity: the UK Overseas Territories. Peterborough, UK: JNCC.
  • Sanders, S. M., ed. (2006). Important Bird Areas in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories. Sandy, UK: RSPB.
  • Whitehead, J. (2008) Priorities for Control: A Risk Assessment of Introduced Species on the Falkland Islands. Sandy, UK: RSPB

Websites