Terrestrial

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The Falklands Islands landmass covers around 12,000km2 comprising two larger islands (East and West Falkland) and over 700 smaller ones. The coastline is varied. Dramatic cliffs rise out the ocean in the southwest to 370m, whilst most of the south-east reaches only 60m. It is deeply indented with embayments and inlets, featuring coastal lagoons, boulder and white sand beaches. There are rolling plains and mountain ranges with Mount Usbourne the highest peak at 705m and rivers and lakes are common place. Peat soils are a widespread and notable feature having developed over thousands of years. The Islands have cool-temperate climate (annual mean temp of 6) and experience strong winds (average wind speed of 27km/h).

The Falklands’ terrestrial biodiversity has evolved against this landscape and climatic backdrop.

Like many other sub-polar island archipelagos, this was in the absence of small mammalian predators, and with the exception of geese, no grazing animals.

An endemic wolf, the warrah, roamed the larger islands in the past, but was exterminated by arriving settlers. There has been human activity in the Islands for around 250 years, bringing with them non-native predatory and grazing mammals and introducing crops or grasses for pasture, which have heavily modified the historically lushly vegetated, yet treeless, islands.

Tussac grass, growing to 3m tall, is the forest of the Falklands storing as much carbon as temperate woodland. It is now only really found on offshore islands with dry heath and ‘whitegrass’ grassland dominating the mainland and larger islands.

 

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There are around 30 different habitats currently recognised, some identified as ‘threatened’ or ‘vulnerable’.

Between them they support around 180 native vascular plants of which 14 are endemic, and some globally and nationally threatened.

Lower plants are well represented with continuing discoveries of new mosses, liverworts and lichens.

There are over 250 insects recorded including the endemic subspecies Queen of the Falklands Fritillary.

Despite many rivers and ponds, freshwater fish are poorly represented.

Whilst the Falklands is renowned for its seabirds two of its three endemic bird species; Cobb’s wren and tussac bird are land birds, as are 12 of the 13 endemic subspecies.

Land birds include raptors, waders, wildfowl, and passerines and the Islands commonly encounter a range of vagrant species.

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Birds

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Plants

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Lower Plants

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Native Habitats of the Falkland Islands

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Invertebrates

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Land Management

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