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DPLUS148: Climate change resilience in the Falkland Islands Fisheries and Marine Ecosystem

Background

The Falkland Islands (FI) historically lacked herbivorous mammals. The introduction of grazing animals has led to vegetation changes and soil erosion. The impact of these changes on wetland and aquatic habitats is not well-understood; limited past research suggests that water quality may remain fairly natural and is largely influenced by sea salt deposition and humic acids from peat runoff. Some studies, however, have shown evidence of human impacts, such as elevated nutrient concentrations in some ponds.

Climate change also presents several threats. A predicted temperature  rise could directly impact on aquatic biota and increase water evaporation rates, which could reduce freshwater availability and lead to the loss of some habitats. Increased storm frequency or severity, will change water quality and may alter the hydro-morphology of drainage systems and wetlands. These impacts on aquatic biota can be understood by regular monitoring.

The Falkland Islands Biodiversity Framework (FIBF) is a threats-based policy that outlines response strategies for identified threats. One of these strategies is the ‘Falkland Islands Ecoregions, Habitats, Species and Sites Strategy’, which identifies 11 ecoregions for the Falkland Islands and requires each of these to have an action plan. Five ecoregions are directly relevant to this project: freshwater (riverine), freshwater (ponds, lakes), lowlands, montane and estuarine. Working closely with the Falkland Islands Government and local stakeholders, the overarching aim of this project is to facilitate the development of action plans for Falklands wetland and aquatic habitats, which will support the FIBF. 

Project Objectives & Scope of Work

The Falkland Island government aims to create a long-term sustainable fishery and marine ecosystem to benefit future generations. This includes sustainable catches of commercial target species and reducing harmful impacts on bycatch species while maintaining ecosystem function. In addition, the Falkland Islands Governments wants to incorporate climate change adaptation into its Fisheries and Oceans Governance, for which it also needs an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. This project will support these aims by addressing climate change impacts and climate resilience to the Falkland Islands fisheries and marine ecosystem to inform climate change adaption. We will do this by (1) generating baseline data via literature reviews and surveys, (2) conducting physiological tolerance and acclimation experiments of key species, (3) create an ecosystem model to investigate the effects of different climate change scenarios on the marine ecosystem function and services (fisheries support), and (4) explore climate change adaptation interventions in the ecosystem with key stakeholders via workshops, which will inform decisions on whether and how to mainstream climate change adaptation and ecosystem approach to fisheries management into sustainable fisheries, conservation of marine ecosystems, governance and policy.

Project Funding

The project is funded by the Darwin Initiative

Project Partners

Our partners for this project are Falkland Islands Government Directorate of Natural Resources, Fisheries Department (FIFD) and Policy and Economic Development (DPED), Falkland Islands Fishing Companies Association (FIFCA), Oregon State University (OSU), British Antarctic Survey (BAS), and the Shallow Marine Survey Group (SMSG).