An account and appraisal of some aspects of the human involvement with the natural environment of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia
by Stephen Palmer
A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of the University of Portsmouth
This dissertation examines the main events in the human history of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia which have had an effect upon the natural environment.
The dissertation contains four case studies, i.e. Sealing, Whaling, Farming and Fishing. Much of the documentary material used in this dissertation has not been subjected to scrutiny before.
Each case study is examined in its own right; the story is outlined and conclusions are drawn. Common themes between the case studies are noted and comparisons are made.
Sheep farming has been the dominant human activity on the Falkland Islands from first settlement until very recently; the effects of the grazing of large numbers of herbivores on native grasses has been significant. Until recently there has been consistent failure to address the decline in the grasslands, and to adopt a more sustainable farming system.
Sealing was the first human activity associated with these Islands ; the various phases of the exploitation of this vast natural resource culminated in the near disappearance of some species and a considerable reduction in all other species.
Southern Ocean whaling began at the beginning of the 20th century; within 60 years whale stocks had been reduced by 90% and all attempts to ensure that whaling companies exercised restraint ultimately failed.
Fishing began in the late 1970s, and is now the foremost economic activity. The revenue accrued from the sale of fishing licences has enabled extensive social change to occur on the Islands . Considerable efforts to control the scale of the fishing effort have been made; the conservation of the stocks, through regulation and enforcement, has been a central concern.
Until very recently, with the exception of the fishing industry, the majority of conservation measures in the Falkland Islands and South Georgia have been largely ineffective. The dissertation considers why this has occurred.
The dissertation shows that the human effects on the natural environment of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia have been far from moderate. It evaluates the reasons for the degradation of the Islands natural environment, and it suggests that rather than giving prominence to one particular aspect as the prime cause of the degradation, in practice there are normally a number of factors involved. Most of the circumstances that are described in the four case studies are usually the product of a combination of a number of factors.
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