Is it a ship? Is it an island? It’s Ship Island!
Published: Jan 15, 2020This blog is all about our conservation partnership with Falklands Conservation, and how we are helping to put a new management plan into action on Ship Island.
It’s not a big island. It’s not a particularly striking island. It’s low and hummocky and there’s no permanent fresh water and no trees. Also, it’s 8,000 miles away. But to us it’s special. Welcome to Ship Island, Living Coasts’ nature reserve in the South Atlantic.
Ship Island is about 450 metres across by 300 metres and the highest point is only 13 metres above sea level. The shore is rocky and fringed with giant kelp. If you want to locate it precisely, it’s at Latitude 51.7098°S and Longitude 61.2794°W.
It’s owned by Falklands Conservation and Living Coasts is helping to put the new management plan into action. Over the years, the native vegetation has been damaged by grazing and burning. Invasive species have, well, invaded. Even after 30 years without human use and misuse, habitats remain in a poor state. Despite this, for its size the island supports a good bird population, including striated caracara, tussacbird, southern giant petrel, steamer ducks and brown skua. The occasional sea lion hauls up onto the shore.
Non-native gorse and marram grass need to be managed. Invasive rodents need to be eradicated, as these prevent potential recolonisation by Cobb’s wren, a small but inquisitive species found only in the Falklands. With little remaining soil and low vegetation, the substrate remains dry and challenging for the establishment of tussac grass, which would likely have been the predominant habitat historically. Establishing native boxwood on the coastline and non-tussac grassland in the interior may gradually improve future conditions for tussac grass to regenerate.
There are reasons for optimism: a little remnant bluegrass habitat remains; plenty of bird species use Ship Island for breeding, including the impressive southern giant petrel – largest of all the petrels, the size of a small albatross. The management plan aims to maintain and enhance important features, support habitat recovery and demonstrate the benefits of good site management. There are opportunities to carry out restorative planting of native bluegrass and boxwood.
Falklands Conservation will also carry out ecological monitoring to record changes and progress. Andrew Stanworth, Conservation Manager for Falklands Conservation: “It’s a great small island for birds already that we would hope to see improve considerably for birds, vegetation and possibly pinnipeds in the future. Many thanks for your support!”
Photo credit: Falklands Conservation Michelle Winnard