Living Coasts – Devon’s coastal zoo – recently announced details of a new conservation project which has been set up on the Falkland Islands to help restore the native landscape.
The Falklands – an archipelago of over 750 islands in the South Atlantic – is home to some of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. Human activities such as livestock grazing and the introduction of non-native plants and animals have all had an impact on the islands and its inhabitants, which includes five penguin species.
Living Coasts has now teamed up with NGO Falklands Conservation to clear invasive species and replant tussac grass which is native to southern South America and the islands of the South Atlantic. It grows in clumps two metres high and is a feature across much of the Falklands.
The focus of Living Coasts work will be on a remote and rarely visited spot in far West Falkland called Ship Island. Owned and managed by Falklands Conservation, this is now effectively Torquay’s own South Atlantic nature reserve.
Living Coasts Curator Clare Rugg explains: “We’re planting grass in the South Atlantic! Birds and seals live among the tussac. On top of that, tussac peatlands form a large store for atmospheric carbon, so planting tussac can help in the fight against climate change.
“It’s all about habitat conservation, which in turn helps biodiversity. Ship Island remains great for some biodiversity – there are seabirds from penguins to waders to giant petrels, but its habitats and wildlife are under pressure from non-native plants and animals. Although the link between Living Coasts and Falklands Conservation is penguins, this is not simply a single species issue,” explains Clare.
“We want to help make sure Falklands plants and animals survive. Healthy ecosystems with a good range of native species preserve the precious soil, store water and carbon and withstand climate change (with the threat of increased storms and reduced soil moisture) better than impoverished areas. We’re rewilding the South Atlantic!”