Research and Monitoring Plan for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands Marine Protected Area
A new research and monitoring plan has been launched to help support the management of the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Marine Protected Area (MPA). The announcement was made in the January edition of the Sough Georgia Newsletter.
The MPA was designated in 2012 to conserve the region’s rich marine biodiversity and provide a framework for marine environmental management and research, while allowing for sustainable use. The initial design of the MPA and the additional conservation measures implemented in 2013 and 2019 were all based 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 series of improved 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 issue, a project funded by the UK Government’s Darwin Plus Initiative (Defra) has been undertaken at the British Antarctic Survey in partnership with the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI), to develop a draft plan in collaboration with the wider research community.
After consulting with a wide 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 in which all interested scientists and stakeholders are encouraged to collect, access and analyze data, including baseline data and relevant indicators. The data collected and analyzed under this plan can be used as a basis for evaluating the effectiveness of the MPA in relation to its conservation and management objectives, to determine whether the boundaries of the MPA continue to encompass the characteristics associated with the specific objectives of the MPA, and for a better understanding of the ecosystems and resources that the MPA protects. It is also important to continue to assess potential threats to biodiversity, including climate change, fishing and invasive species, as well as the impacts of tourism and scientific activities.
The RMP aims to guide scientific activities that:
• contribute to a better understanding of the SGSSI marine ecosystem
• assess the nature and extent of the change
• assess specific threats to biodiversity
• provide information to assess the effectiveness of the ART
• inform the development of improved and responsive management as needed
These activities include ongoing monitoring, as well as specific research to answer questions related to the objectives of the MPA 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 reacts to change. It is a valuable resource to help scientists and stakeholders plan scientific activities that will contribute to the ongoing scientific management of the MPA.
In addition to the RMP, the Darwin Plus project has also developed an integrated online MPA data portal that will bring together geographic information system (GIS) and information on ecology, physical environments, human activities and scientific research to improve and support the management of SGSSI MPAs in the future. The MPA Data Portal will be launched later this year.