The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) is installing flux towers in the Falkland Islands, which will guide restoration of its large areas of peatlands to reduce its carbon footprint and support wildlife and tourism.
These important wetland ecosystems comprise around 40 per cent of the Falklands, making it one of the most peat-rich places in the world. In a natural state, peatlands help mitigate climate change and provide vital habitats for wildlife but human activity, including sheep grazing and drainage for agriculture, has affected many areas in the Falklands – as they have done globally.
The four flux towers being installed by UKCEH will measure how much carbon dioxide is being emitted or absorbed by peatlands in the UK Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic Ocean.
The measurements will guide restoration which would support the Falklands’ world-famous wildlife such as Magellanic penguins and sealions, which shelter in peatlands, as well as birds including the Tussac-bird, Cobbs wren and Shearwater – thereby boosting tourism and conservation efforts.
The data could pave the way for carbon trading, in which landowners could sell the carbon benefits of restoring peatlands to businesses, thereby providing them with a new revenue stream and making restoration schemes more viable.
UKCEH biogeochemist Professor Chris Evans, who has carried out extensive research on the islands’ peatlands, says: “UKCEH has extensive expertise in managing networks of flux towers, which measure the movement of greenhouse gases. By collecting data from these towers, we gain insights which help us sequester and capture more carbon from the atmosphere.”
Pete Biggs, Portfolio holder for Environment and Public Infrastructure in the Falkland Islands Government, says the flux towers “represent a stride in our journey toward environmental sustainability”.
He adds: “I am confident that the invaluable data generated by these towers will not only enhance our understanding of the local environment and carbon footprint but will also inform policies and projects going forwards and contribute to our ongoing efforts at reaching net-zero carbon emissions.
UKCEH is installing the four towers this month at Rincon Grande, Horseshoe Bay, Bleaker Island and Weddell Island. Two are funded by Falkland Islands Government and two by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The project also involves Falklands Conservation, South Atlantic Environmental Research Institution and British Antarctic Survey