South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) in the southern Atlantic Ocean encompasses some of the world’s most biologically rich waters, including abundant marine mammals and seabirds, diverse benthic habitats and species, as well as important commercial fisheries. The SGSSI Marine Protected Area (MPA) was established in 2012 to ensure the protection and conservation of the region’s rich and diverse marine life, whilst allowing sustainable fisheries. Activities within the MPA are routinely monitored and an independent review of the MPA is carried out every 5 years, the first of which was in 2018. This ongoing management of the MPA requires accessible and comprehensive data on the status and trends of marine biodiversity, ecosystem features and human activities. NERC-funded data managed by the Environmental Data Service (EDS) have been integrated with other available data to support this critical work.
Using funding from a Darwin Plus grant, the UK Polar Data Centre (PDC), which sits within the EDS, (with support from the BAS Mapping and Geographic Information Centre) developed a South Georgia Marine Protected Area Data Portal, tailored to provide information and analyses to support the latest MPA review as well as the future management of the MPA. The portal brings together much of the relevant research, monitoring and human activity data and provides extensive background information, links to relevant literature, and displays data using interactive reports, charts, and maps. The integration of biological data with spatial information has significant benefits in terms of improving fundamental understanding of the marine ecosystem in this region. This is critical not only for the management of the MPA, but also to improve understanding on the distribution and abundance of species, and their likely responses to potential future environmental change.
The data portal includes extensive data and information covering:
the Marine Protected Area management zones;
the ecology of higher predators;
the physical environment;
human activities (fisheries, tourism, debris, interactions with birds and mammals); and
research and monitoring activities.
It integrates data collated by, or on behalf of, the Government of SGSSI, published datasets, and NERC-funded data held within the EDS. For NERC datasets, data pages within the portal are linked to relevant metadata records in the PDC, providing users easy access to the British Antarctic Survey’s long-term monitoring data. This has added great value to the data managed by the EDS and allowed it to create a bigger impact than originally possible.
New data are added to the portal via two pathways; either through being added to underlying databases, in which case the portal’s embedded maps and data summary figures update automatically, or through users uploading information directly through the PDC website.
This data portal and the associated research generate the knowledge and insight which underpin policy and management decisions in and around SGSSI. It continues to enhance knowledge of the biodiversity and habitats of SGSSI and allows for evidence-based monitoring and assessment of the MPA.
The work was supported by the UK Darwin Initiative, the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, UK Research and Innovation, The Natural Environment Research Council, and the British Antarctic Survey.
The South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands MPA Data Portal is available here. Most of the content of the portal is open-access, however some limited information on fisheries and unpublished data time series is restricted to those with login credentials, i.e. Government of SGSSI and British Antarctic Survey staff.
The PDC’s Discovery Metadata System is a web-based system to discover polar datasets collected by UK-funded scientists.
Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (2020) Marine Protected Area homepage [website] Accessed October 2020 https://www.gov.gs/environment/marine-protected-area/
British Antarctic Survey (2020) Building data resources for managing the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands MPA [website] Accessed October 2020 https://www.bas.ac.uk/project/building-data-resources-for-managing-the-south-georgia-south-sandwich-islands-marine-protected-area/
Grant, S., Peat, H., Allan, C., Trathan, P. (2019) Darwin Plus DPLUS069 project final report. British Antarctic Survey. Restricted
Enabling Sustainable Fisheries Management in the Southern Ocean (2020) British Antarctic Survey [Report] Confidential