This year's Falklands Conservation Charity Ball, proudly sponsored by Consolidated Fisheries Ltd. proved to be a huge success and raised almost £22,000. Guests arrived and were welcomed with a champagne reception kindly donated by the Falkland Islands Company and a range of canapés provided by the Malvina House Hotel all complemented by a classical ensemble performed by Shirley Adams-Leach and Falkland Islands Community School music students.
The theme this year was sustainability and recycling and the Town Hall was transformed with artwork and crafts made by The Watch Group and volunteers. The focal point of the glamorous evening was a spectacular chandelier suspended from the ceiling, made entirely out of recycled materials, including dozens of plastic bottles and an old bicycle wheel.
Designating Protected Areas are potentially one of the most powerful tools to conserve habitats and species. A strong network of Protected Areas is also one of the internationally recognised indicators of how well a country looks after its biodiversity – so what is the system of Protected Areas in the UK Overseas Territories and how well are they working?
To discuss these questions and more Falklands Conservation recently organised a Protected Areas workshop on Ascension Island with landowners, government officers and conservation professionals from the Falkland Islands, St Helena, Ascension and the UK.
Twenty-two stranded false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) were recorded in February 2013 at Fitzroy, East Falkland. A further 30 individuals were seen swimming in the shallow waters adjacent to the stranded group. During a subsequent visit this group had moved back into the safety of deep water. This is the first documented record of false killer whales in the Falkland Islands, and a rare sighting for the region.
False killer whales are oceanic dolphins (despite the name) and generally range within warmer waters between latitudes 50° north and south. They are mainly deep water species with little really known about them in the wild. Deep water, oceanic cetaceans that stray into shallow coastal waters can become disorientated by unfamiliar features and are vulnerable to beaching themselves.
Samples have now been sent away for genetic testing which will help reveal more about the population structure of this species in the Atlantic Ocean.
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. Increased drought periods will decrease soil water content, threaten plant growth and are likely to place increased stress on the shallow peat soils of the Islands 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 started in January 2013 and is being led by Dr Rebecca Upson (RBG Kew and former Falklands Conservation botanist) and Professor Jim McAdam (UK Falkland Islands Trust) in partnership with Falklands Conservation and the Falkland Islands Government.