Impacts of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems of the Falkland Islands
Investigating the impacts of climate change on Falkland Islands plant diversity and terrestrial ecosystem services; ecological modelling will inform a climate change risk assessment that will aid development of a national plan of action.
Mount Usborne, East Falkland: upland cushion heath shown above may be amongst those native habitats placed under increased stress by climate change (Image: Marcella Corcoran)
The climate of the Falkland Islands is changing. 136 years of records show seasonal rainfall has declined and over 50 years of sunshine records show significant increases in mean summer sunshine and temperature. If increased drought periods continue, soil water content is likely to decrease, plant growth could be negatively impacted and increased stress placed on the shallow peat soils of the Islands that are already prone to drying out and erosion. This in turn could have a profound impact on plant community diversity, pasture growth, water availability and ultimately the potential of soils to sequester carbon.
The EU BEST-funded project entitled ‘TEFRA – Terrestrial Ecosystems of the Falklands – a Climate Change Risk Assessment’ aims to increase our understanding of and address these potential threats. The project is being led by Dr Rebecca Upson (Kew) and Professor Jim McAdam (Queen’s University Belfast) in partnership with Falklands Conservation and the Falkland Islands Government.
In its first phase, the project will use 2020-2080 climate change predictions developed by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research to model impacts on:
- Falkland native and invasive plant diversity - A botanical database (recently updated by the OTEP-funded Native Plants Project(a collaborative project between Falklands Conservation and Kew) and a variety of Invasive Plant projects) will be used to develop species distribution models to predict likely impacts of climate change on plant distributions.
- The delivery of ecosystem services provided by soils and grasslands - Soil carbon storage and water availability will be modelled under these climate scenarios to determine potential impacts on future carbon storage potential, plant growth and hence pastoral agricultural systems.
In the second phase of the project a risk assessment will carried out in consultation with local and international stakeholders. The aim of the risk assessment is to evaluate the likely impacts of climate change on the plant diversity and ecosystem services of the Falkland Islands. The modelled impacts identified in the first phase of the project will feed into this risk assessment.
In the final phase of the project, the risk assessment will be used to enable the participatory development of a National Climate Change Action Plan. The priority actions, to be agreed with the Falkland Islands Government for the short- and long-term, will ensure conservation and sustainable use of terrestrial biodiversity of the Falklands, and the maintenance of ecosystem services in the face of climate change. The methods used and lessons learned during this project will be shared with other Overseas Territories and Countries.
Project partners and collaborators
Falkland Islands Government
UK Falkland Islands Trust
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia
Falkland Islands Government
"BEST" – Voluntary Scheme for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Territories of the EU Outermost Regions and Oversees Countries and Territories
This project is funded by
The European Union