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Habitat Changes on the Falkland Islands

51.7S 59.4W

January 31st, 2013 Category: Snapshots

Argentina – January 29th, 2013

The Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) are located in the South Atlantic Ocean on a projection of the Patagonian Shelf about 310 miles (500 kilometres) east of the Patagonian coastline and about 280 miles (450 kilometres) north-east of the southerly tip of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. The Falklands, which have a total land area of 4,700 square miles (12,173 square kilometres) and a coastline estimated at 2,200 miles (3,500 km)[92] comprise two main islands, West Falkland and East Falkland and about 776 smaller islands. The two principal islands are 140 miles (220 km) from east to west and 87 miles (140 km) from north to south. They are heavily indented by sounds and fjords and have many natural harbours. The two main islands are separated by the Falkland Sound.

There is little long-term data on habitat changes, so the extent of human impact to the islands is unclear. Vegetation such as tussac grass, fachine, and native box have been heavily impacted by introduced grazing animals. Virtually the entire area of the islands is used as pasture for sheep. Rats and Grey foxes have been introduced and are having a detrimental impact on birds that nest on the shores, as are feral cats. Many breeding birds similarly only live on offshore islands, where introduced animals such as cats and rats are not found. There is also an introduced reindeer population, which was brought to the islands in 2001 for commercial purposes. Twenty two introduced plant species are thought to provide a significant threat to local flora.

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