One of the most remote of the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs), South Georgia is a beautiful and rugged island lying 1600 km north of the Antarctic in the South Atlantic Ocean. With mountain ranges reaching nearly 3000 m, most of its 3755 km² are covered in permanent snow and glaciers, but at low altitude, within the shelter of its numerous bays, there is a sparse covering of herbaceous vegetation. South Georgia is known for its spectacular wildlife and as the final resting place of the explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. It is home to over 50 million seabirds, including globally important populations of wandering albatross and macaroni penguins. During the summer months, the beaches and tussac mounds are overrun by 4.5 million fur seals and 0.5 million elephant seals. The Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) manages the island as a pristine wilderness environment with strict bio-security protocols and monitoring of visitors.
South Georgia's flora consists of 25 native species of vascular plants, co-existing with as many introduced species. There are also about 125 species of moss, 85 liverworts and 200 lichens. Woody species are unable to withstand the island's severe weather conditions. The native vegetation resembles that of parts of the Falkland Islands, Tierra del Fuego and southern Patagonia. It is dominated by low herbaceous plants, predominantly in different grassland communities and in mire and bog, mossbank and fellfield. Tussac (Poa flabellata) grasslands are of particular importance as a habitat for native wildlife and introduced species, including reindeer.
Herbarium specimens from South Georgia were digitized to form part of the UKOTs Online Herbarium, which was funded by the former Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP) and additional support from the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT). The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) herbarium specimens were also digitised to form part of the UKOTs Online Herbarium, with support from SGHT and BAS.
Please use the links below to see further details on conservation activities in the UK Overseas Territories.