Trust consultant makes annual visit to the Falklands and Southern Chile

Jim McAdam has just returned from a 2 –week visit to the Falkland Islands and southern Chile under the auspices of  the United Kingdom Falkland Islands Trust.

While in the islands Jim gave a public lecture on the potential implications of climate change on agriculture and visited the Government Research Farm at Saladero. There he saw some shelterbelt plantations he had been instrumental in initiating almost 20 yrs ago, reseeding trials and native pasture utilisation. Local conservation organisation Falklands Conservation was keen to show Jim trials using native grasses to restore some heavily (very!) eroded areas. He also met with the Governor, The Rt Hon  Colin Roberts, Director of Education, Tom Hill , Head of the Dept of Agriculture Ian Campbell, Senior Agronomist Adam Dawes and Head of Renewable Energy Resources in FIDC, Andrew Crighton.

In Chile he and, Dr Sergio Radic  visited some plots where  Tussac Grass grass (Poa flabellata) has been used to enhance current forage quality.

Jim McAdam Measuring Tussac on Tierra del Fuego

Jim McAdam gives presentation at Farmer’s Week

The Trust’s consultant, Jim McAdam gave a remote presentation to a group of farmers in the Falklands on the potential of climate change of agriculture in the Islands, as part of Farmer’s Week 2015. Farmer’s Week is an annual gathering of stakeholders concerned with agriculture in the Falkland Islands.

Jim McAdam linking with the Falklands from the Media suite in AFBI.

Impact of burning vegetation highlighted at international conference

At the 5th International conference on the effect of fires on soil properties (FESP5), the potential impacts of and risks associated with burning vegetation in the Falklands were highlighted. In the paper presented, Jim McAdam, Rebecca Upson and Rodney Burton reviewed the peatlands of the Falklands and presented current estimates of peat extent, type and carbon storage potential. Recent climate change predictions were aligned with an overview of the practice of burning the pastures in spring to highlight concerns of the effect of fire on biodiversity and the carbon storage potential of these shallow, extensive peatlands.

Trust’s consultant presents papers at 3 major conferences


1.McAdam J H (2013) The impact of the Falklands War (1982) on the peatland Ecosystem of the Islands. In ; Rotherham I & Handley C (eds) War and Peat. Wildtrack Publishing, Sheffield. Vol 10 (2013) of Landscape Archaeology and Ecology pp 143-162    Summary. Although the Falkland Islands (52°S) are relatively small (12,000km2) they are a globally important peatland resource. Most of the soils are classified as peat which has been formed under a unique set of climatic conditions and location-specific circumstances.  Their estimated carbon stock is equivalent to 66% of the UK total and more than that of Ireland. The Falklands War in 1982 was essentially fought on peatlands. However the timing of the action (winter), the relatively short duration of the land conflict and the unpreparedness of the combatants for the peatland conditions meant that overall impact on the ecosystem was minimal. A small but significant area of minefields is an unwelcome human legacy (which may have some ecosystem benefits) but a greater number of military and other tourists visiting the main battle sites has the potential to increase awareness of the peatland ecosystem.

2.McAdam J.H. (2013)The impact of the Shackleton report on developments in the Falkland Islands post-1982.  Summary. In 1976 the Labour Peer Lord Edward Shackleton was asked to produce an economic survey of the Falkland Islands focusing on their current viability and development potential. His main findings were that the Falklands were suffering from decapitalisation (there was a net gain to the British exchequer over a 20 year period) and that there was significant natural development potential (e.g. fisheries and hydrocarbons). He also made recommendations on fiscal procedures and infrastructure. His main recommendation was that the large company own farms should be sub-divided and sold as individual family run units – very radical agrarian land reform for the late 20th century. The report was largely ignored. During the Falklands War, Prime Minister Thatcher asked Lord Shackleton to revisit his 1976 report, update it and make recommendations for the post – war development. Shackleton did not change his initial report much and the added impetus (and money) given by the Thatcher Government meant that most of the recommendations could be implemented. The Falklands subsequently prospered, eventually becoming (by 1988) financially self-sufficient from Britain. Farm sub-division had a largely positive effect on rural infrastructure. Margaret Thatcher’s willingness to support what was essentially a Labour-driven programme is significant and her legacy in the Falklands post – 1982 is essentially one of implementation of the Shackleton report recommendations.

Paper presented at the Theoretical Archaeology Group, Bournemouth University Conference “Archaeologies of Margaret Thatcher”

3.McAdam J H (2014)  Farming on the Peatlands of the Falkland IslandsIn the Bog– The ecology, landscape, archaeology and heritage of Peatlands” in Sheffield on 4th Sept 2014     Summary   The Falkland Islands (51-53°S), land area 12,200km2 have a cool (2.2°C.- 9.4°C), temperate oceanic climate. Rainfall varies between 400-800mm and is lowest in spring. The islands were glaciated and acid, organic soils have formed mainly because of low temperature and the impervious clay-rich subsoil creating conditions which favour waterlogging. Upland peat, lowland peat or tussac (coastal) peat cover virtually the entire land surface. Vegetation is typically dwarf shrub heath on drier soils and magellanic moorland on wetter soils. Agriculture is confined to extensive sheep farming in large enclosures (89% > c. 2000 ha).In the early days of the Colony (early 1800s) cattle roamed the islands and sheep were first introduced in the 1860s. They quickly became the main source of income on the (approx. 30) large farms which existed up until the early 1980s. Lord Shackleton’s Economic Survey (1976) recommending subdivision of the large farm units and transferring land ownership to local owners transformed the agricultural industry on the islands. Subsequently, the building of a certified abattoir in the early 2000s created further major opportunities. Traditionally, pasture improvement through reseeding and fertilising was practiced only on a very small scale. Recently the development of pastures with improved grasses and legumes coupled with rotational grazing has received much greater priority than previously. There are concerns that climate change predictions have indicated a steady temperature rise resulting in an unfavourable precipitation-evapotranspiration balance and other factors may contribute to the instability of the peatlands.  Now and in the future, agricultural management practices will play a key role in ecosystem services delivery and climate change mitigation in the islands

Trust’s consultant awarded OBE in 2014 Honour List

The Trust’s long-time Consultant, Professor Jim McAdam , Queen’s University Belfast and the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute, was awarded an OBE in the 2014 New Year’s Honours list. Jim’s award was for “Services to agriculture and research in the Falkland Islands” and reflected over 38 years of involvement in agricultural research and development in the Falklands. Jim’s work in connection with the Falklands included working with the United Kingdom Falkland Islands Trust (UKFIT), sitting on the Academic Committee of the Shackleton Scholarship Fund and editing the Falkland Islands Journal (since 1991). Jim’s award was presented by Prince Charles, which was highly appropriate as the Prince had visited the Falkland Islands in the past and showed a keen interest in the current state of farming on the islands.