Coastal habitat mapping of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia

Busen Point, South Georgia.
Creating the first coastal margin habitat maps for the Falklands and South Georgia from high-resolution satellite imagery.


Our coastal areas are of critical importance to both humans and wildlife, and knowledge of them is essential for their management and conservation. Historically in the South Atlantic, the coastal margins of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia have been subject to relatively little study. However, the Falklands have received increased pressures over recent years from shipping, tourism and oil production. While South Georgia has received less human impact, it is still home to globally important populations of marine birds and mammals, and their habitat extends around its coastline.

This new project seeks to utilise recently available satellite imagery alongside other spatial data and local expert knowledge to develop the first broad scale coastal margin (terrestrial, intertidal and subtidal) habitat maps for the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Where there is significant uncertainty in these broad scale maps, or in response to specific priorities from stakeholders, higher resolution habitat maps utilising very high-resolution satellite imagery or bespoke imagery captured using aerial drones will also be developed. These habitat maps will create an essential baseline, providing a sound basis for use in future planning, decision-making and monitoring.

Project Objectives

The project is composed of five key work packages:

Work Package 1 – Digitised 50 year old imagery for the Falklands

Work Package 2 – Object-based image analysis and habitat modelling of the coastal margin

Work Package 3 – The identification, prioritisation and fulfilment of information data needs for the systematic conservation and planning of the coastal margin of the Falklands and South Georgia

Work Package 4 – Prioritisation of ongoing planning, protection and monitoring of coastal margin


Project Manager


Neil graduated from the University of Stirling with an honours degree in Marine Biology and went on to gain an MSc in Marine Resource Development and Protection at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. An experienced marine ecologist and scientific diver, Neil has led on a range of projects, from mapping near-shore habitats in Northern Ireland with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, through to developing the circalittoral rock habitat classification for Britain and Ireland. He went on to lead and manage JNCC’s offshore seabed survey programme - commissioning surveys as well as collaborating with other Government institutions and academic research bodies to gather scientifically robust seabed evidence to underpin and support the designation, monitoring and management of the UK’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) network. Neil was previously seconded to SAERI, where he worked with local stakeholders on Phase II of the Marine Spatial Planning project.
The Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. The location of Stanley Harbour is indicated with a red dot. Map projection: WGS84 UTM 21S

Mapping the coastal margin of the Falkland Islands

The coastal and inshore marine ecosystems and resources play an important role in the Falkland Islands. From their historical role as a safe harbour, source of food, and forage for livestock, to their present importance for fishing and wildlife-based tourism revenues, the Falklands are defined by the diverse range of ecosystem services provided by the coast and the sea. Knowledge of these coastal environments is essential for their effective conservation and management, and yet comprehensive island-wide broad scale and fine scale coastal habitat maps, which could form an important baseline (from which to measure future change for example), are lacking. This project aims to fill this critical gap in coastal knowledge of the Falkland Islands.

Work developing broad scale coastal habitat (Stage 1) maps will commence from April 2018 with a delivery date anticipated around September 2018. Stakeholder input will be instrumental in driving the priorities (either spatial or temporal) for further fine scale (Stage 2) mapping. This input process will primarily happen through a stakeholder workshop planned for early August 2018. Fine scale maps focussed in specific locations are planned for delivery by end June 2019.

Mapping South Georgia’s dynamic coastal margin

The first island-wide effort to identify and map the coastal habitats of South Georgia Island since Jenny Scott and Sally Poncet’s pioneering work in 2003 is now underway. Wind swept and icy, South Georgia is home to globally important populations of marine birds and mammals, and their habitat extends around its coastline. The habitat models and maps produced by this project will provide an important baseline for use in conservation planning, decision making and monitoring by the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands, and other stakeholders passionate about South Georgia’s environment.

In November and December 2017, with the support of the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands, project researchers worked alongside a rat-monitoring expedition team based aboard the Fisheries Patrol Vessel Pharos SG. They landed on some of the least visited beaches on the island; watched by penguins, fur seals and elephant seals, they worked in sun, rain and snow, collecting vital information on a range of remarkable and diverse habitats. This data will help validate the coastal habitat models being created for South Georgia. A return research expedition is being planned for February 2019
Looking out beyond the penguins and elephant seals to the FPV Pharos SG, South Georgia © SAERI/Sacha Cleminson, 2017


The project is funded by the Darwin Initiative through the UK Government

Darwin Initiative’s project DPLUS65

PO Box 609, Stanley Cottage North
Ross Road, Falkland Islands
Stanley, FIQQ 1ZZ
Falkland Islands: +500 27374
UK Office: +44 (0)20 3745 1731
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