National Geographic : 2018 Feb
ATLANTIC OCEAN FalklandSound Queen Charlotte Bay AdventureSound Bay of Harbours King George Bay ByronSound North Falkland Sound B erkeley SoundEaglePassageCh oiseul Sound FALKLAND ISLANDS (ISLAS MALVINAS) (U.K.) Mount Pleasant Royal Air Force Station WESTFALKLANDEASTFALKLAND Weddell Island PassageIslands Mt. Usborne 2,313 ft 705 m Mt. Adam 2,297 ft 700 m Mt. Maria 2,159 ft 658 m JasonIslandsPebbleIsland Steeple Jason Grand Jason Saunders Island Volunteer Point Lively Island Bleaker Island Sea Lion I. Barren Island Speedwell Island KeppelIsland Wickham He ights New Island Beaver Island Bird Island Stanley Rincon Grande Port San Carlos North Arm Goose Green Port Howard Fox Bay Port Stephens Roy Cove Hill Cove ARGENTINA CHILE FALKLAND IS. (ISLAS MALVINAS) (U.K.) ATLANTIC OCEAN Tierra del Fuego 0mi 200 0km 200 Claimed by Argentina Claimed by United Kingdom U.K . oil and gas exploration areas MAP AREA MAP AREA SOUTH AMERICA ANTARCTICA where wildlife is in charge 75 manages them. Researchers and tourists have been allowed only on carefully controlled visits. Fast-forward to today, and the resiliency of nature is in evidence everywhere around me. The diversity on display is as if the Pacific Northwest, the West In- dies, and Antarctica had collided in the South Atlantic. On five-mile-long Steeple Jason, 48 bird species have been observed. But the extraordinary profusion of Falklands wildlife still faces man-made risks: pollu- tion, degraded habitat, oil slicks, baited hooks dragged behind fishing vessels, and, notably, climate change. The ocean may cool around the islands and warm farther away, disrupting the food web that nourishes seabirds and marine mammals. Increased oil explora- tion near the islands has also raised concerns about a devastating spill. The Falkland Islanders, though, have a growing incentive to embrace conservation. With more than 60,000 tourists visiting a year, ecotourism is now the second largest source of revenue, behind fishing and ahead of sheep farming. As a trained biologist, I can’t help but be obsessed with the difference between the islands left alone and the islands touched by our heavy hand. What can we learn from Steeple Jason’s abundance? There is hope, and there is healing, if we choose to let nature be. Ex- ploring the island’s sloping grasslands and looming mountains is like walking back a thousand years in time. The ecosystem pristine. The wildlife extrava- gant. The animals unafraid of us. Mischievous Johnny rooks try to steal items out of my camera bag. Albatrosses hover overhead, suspend- ed on the constant updrafts that blow off the Atlantic. One taps the back of my head lightly with its feet as it passes above me. I imagine it does so on purpose; these are precise birds. Where else can animals feel so free to engage in play with the likes of us? More important, how can we help them remain so unafraid? If we keep treating our fragile Earth simply as a place for resources to be extracted, it will continue to suffer. I see Steeple Jason as a testament to Earth’s resiliency but also a call for urgency. We need more Steeple Jasons, more places where we stop waging war on the environment and give nature the time it needs to flourish. j Paul Nicklen, a photographer, filmmaker, and marine biolo- gist who was raised in the Canadian Arctic, has documented wildlife around the world for National Geographic. CONTRADICTING CLAIMS Britain and Argentina warred over the islands in 1982, and both claim them. Tensions remain as interest in oil and gas exploitation grows. A delicate balance Threats to biodiversity include overgrazing and the introduc- tion of non-native species, such as predators that can alter the natural ecosystem.