Falkland Islands Marine Biodiversity Archive

FIMBAr is a collaboration between the Marine Biological Association (MBA), the Shallow Marine Surveys Group (SMSG) and the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI). The project to establish a marine biodiversity data archive for the Falkland Islands is supported by a Darwin Challenge Fund Award and runs until February 2013. By collating information from recent surveys and historical datasets it is hoped to establish a baseline dataset that can be used to map species distributions and inform future management of the marine environment.

The historical data will be extracted from the RRS Discovery and RRS William Scoresby, combined with the more recent electronic surveys and made widely available through the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Antarctic node - SCAR-MarBIN.

The Discovery Investigations were a set of surveys and onshore analyses, conducted by the Discovery Committee, which ran from 1924 to 1951, covering the Patagonian Shelf and beyond. The main purpose of the cruises was to provide understanding of the biology of whales in the southern oceans, which in turn would inform management strategies of the Antarctic whale fishery. A further aim of the investigations was to determine what marine species were present in the southern hemisphere.

Until now, all of the Discovery information on species assemblage and distribution that was collected around the Falkland Islands has remained, untapped, within the reports that were produced from the 27 year venture. Therefore, the biodiversity of the waters surrounding the Falkland Islands has remained virtually unknown, and certainly unmapped. However, in 2006 the Shallow Marine Surveys Group (SMSG) began the ambitious project of discovering what species are present within the coastal waters of the Falkland Islands.

The FIMBAr project aims to digitise the data on the species assemblage in the Falkland Islands’ waters from the Discovery reports. All of the data collected by the SMSG since 2006 will also be entered into the database. Eventually, all of these data will be used to produce an online marine biodiversity database for the Falkland Islands, and beyond, using both historic and current data. This will enable the biodiversity of the marine fauna of the Falkland Islands, from then and now, to be mapped and compared. This will provide a better understanding of the species biodiversity of the Falkland Islands and will prove useful for future science conducted within this system.

So far, the data that has been digitised from the Discovery reports numbers well over 3,000 records and the project officer (Dr Deborah Davidson) believes that there may well be another 1,000 records remaining. The data collected from the SMSG surveys currently numbers 27,000 records and there is still a year’s worth of data to be imported, also. Eventually, these data can be used to study for example, the effects of the fishing industry on the various marine fauna around the islands and to determine the effects of climate change. Another extremely useful potential application for this data is to provide sufficient baseline data to carry out rigorous Environmental Impact Assessments for the burgeoning oil industry in the Falkland Island waters.