A new Research and Monitoring Plan has been launched to help support the management of the South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands Marine Protected Area, MPA. The announcement was done in the January edition of the Sough Georgia Newsletter.
The MPA was designated in 2012 to conserve the region’s rich marine biodiversity and to provide a framework for marine environmental management and research, whilst still allowing sustainable use. The initial design of the MPA and the additional conservation measures implemented in 2013 and 2019 have all been founded on the best available scientific advice, and evidence-based management continues to be a priority.
In 2017/18 the first five-year review confirmed that the MPA was meeting its objectives and suggested a range of enhanced conservation measures. The review also identified gaps in current knowledge, and the need for a Research and Monitoring Plan (RMP) was highlighted as a priority. To address this, a project funded by the UK Government (Defra)’s Darwin Plus Initiative was undertaken at the British Antarctic Survey in partnership with the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI), to develop a draft plan in collaboration with the wider research community.
Following consultation with a broad range of scientists and stakeholders to identify research and monitoring priorities, we are pleased to launch the new RMP which will support GSGSSI’s commitment to evidence-based sustainable management.
The RMP is designed to be a framework through which any interested scientists and stakeholders are encouraged to collect, access and analyse data, including relevant baseline data and indicators. Data collected and analysed under this plan can be used as a basis to evaluate the effectiveness of the MPA in relation to its conservation and management objectives, to consider whether the boundaries of the MPA continue to encompass the features associated with specific MPA objectives, and to further understanding of the ecosystems and resources that the MPA protects. It is also important to continue evaluating potential threats to biodiversity, including from climate change, fishing and invasive species, as well as the impacts of tourism and scientific activities.
The RMP aims to guide scientific activities that will:
• contribute to an increased understanding of the SGSSI marine ecosystem
• assess the nature and extent of change
• assess specific threats to biodiversity
• provide information to evaluate the effectiveness of the MPA
• inform the development of enhanced and responsive management as required
These activities include ongoing monitoring, as well as specific research to address questions related to the MPA objectives and to improve knowledge and understanding of the SGSSI marine ecosystem.
Darwin Plus project leader Dr Susie Grant (British Antarctic Survey) said: “The Research and Monitoring Plan identifies key research questions to improve our understanding of the SGSSI marine ecosystem and how it is responding to change. It is a valuable resource to help scientists and stakeholders plan scientific activities that will contribute to the ongoing, science-based management of the MPA.”
In addition to the RMP, the Darwin Plus project has also developed an integrated online MPA Data Portal which will bring together a geographic information system (GIS) and information on ecology, physical environments, human activities and scientific research to enhance and support the management of the SGSSI MPA into the future. The MPA Data Portal will be launched later this year.