SMSG were formed in 2006 by marine biologists and dive enthusiasts in the Falkland Islands. The group recognised that the shallow marine environment in the Falkland Islands is pristine, un-impacted by man and surprisingly diverse but almost nothing was known about it. Their initial aim was to provide species inventories for the habitats of this vast coastline and ultimately to produce a guide book so others could enjoy the amazing sites, habitats and species that are contained within it. Since they started in 2006 over 500 species of algae and animals have been documented between the intertidal zone and 20 metres in depth. These range from inconspicuous algae the thickness of a single cell to migrating whales exceeding 15 tonnes. Some species are readily distinguished at a glimpse while others require a sharp eye to determine their identity. But each contributes to the biodiversity of the shallow marine environment – the most diverse environment in the Falklands Islands.
SMSG’s expeditions have taken them to the far reaches of the Falkland Islands, the north coast of sub-Antarctic South Georgia and the tropical oceanic island of Ascension. Their work has resulted in the discovery of over 30 new species, numerous habitats and unique faunal and floral communities. The environments the group work in range from a comfortable 26 °C to freezing cold conditions of less than 0 °C in South Georgia and strong winds can make seas and coastlines prohibitively rough. Exploration of the marine life in these environments therefore presents some challenges.
The theme of this set of stamps is rocky reef habitats in the three United Kingdom South Atlantic Overseas Territories. The species diversity and floral and faunal assemblages are extremely different in each of the territories and the reasons for this are due to latitude, oceanography and geographical isolation in terms of distance from other islands and continental land masses.
Follow the work of SMSG on their website www.smsg-falklands.org and web blog www.smsg-falklands.org/blog
South Georgia is a marine biodiversity hotspot in the Southern Ocean. Shallow rocky reefs provide home for a unique assemblage of Antarctic and Patagonian flora and fauna, and those with Southern Ocean-wide biogeographic distributions. Because South Georgia is geologically old, somewhat isolated from other landmasses, and surrounded by deep (3000 meters) neighbouring waters, South Georgia is particularly rich in “endemic” species, that is, those that live nowhere else globally.
When exploring the subtidal rocky reefs of South Georgia, divers will discover multi-storied canopies of seaweeds, from the tall bladder kelps (Macrocystis pyrifera) forming dense forests reaching the surface, to the impressively named Himantothallus grandifolius with its 50cm wide blades that extend for 10s of meters along the seafloor, and a highly diverse and complex assemblage of foliose red seaweeds covering most rocky surfaces. The ubiquitous Antarctic fur seal will be curious and playful companions while exploring these underwater gardens.
These seaweed dominated habitats support a colourful array of encrusting and mobile fauna living on the seabed and on seaweeds themselves. Visually dominant are brightly coloured colonial ascidians (sea squirts), anemones, and bryozoans (lace corals). In South Georgia’s fjord-like embayments, beautiful overhanging walls are densely packed with primitive brachiopods (lampshells) and massive glass “volcano” sponges that normally live hundreds of meters deep, but can be found within 20 m of the surface here. The crowded assemblages include a wide variety of starfish, sea cucumbers, nudibranchs, topshells, limpets and chitons, together with the giant isopod and sea spiders that are characteristic of this part of the world.
The marine habitats of South Georgia are potentially the most interesting in the region, yet at present they are the most poorly understood. The South Georgia area is one of the fastest warming regions in the Southern Ocean and is predicted to be one of the most affected by climate change, with the possibility of species shifting their distribution and the associated loss of biodiversity. These images were taken as part of a multi-national research program aimed at describing and monitoring South Georgia’s marine biodiversity in light these impacts.
The issue consists of four stamps (65p, 75p, £1.00p & £1.20p) all with white borders, a sheetlet of 16 in staggered se-tenant format with the same values which bleed off and a souvenir sheet containing three £1 stamps, one of each from Ascension Island, Falkland Islands and South Georgia.
First Day Covers of the souvenir sheet will be cancelled first day of issue in South Georgia and then forwarded for cds cancellations in Ascension Island and Falkland Islands.
Credits: Shallow Marine Surveys Group (Photos). Darwin Initiative (DEFRA), Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, the South Georgia Heritage Trust, and the Falkland Islands Government Fisheries Department for funding and in-kind support.
Photography: Shallow Marine Surveys Group
Designer: Bee Design
Printer: Cartor Security Printing
Stamp size: 42 x 28mm
Perforation: 13 ¼ x 13 ½ per 2cms
Sheet Layout: 20 (2 x 10)
Sheetlet Layout: 16 (4x4) - 200 x 187mm
Souvenir Sheet 3 x £1 (joint S/S with Ascension Is. and Falklands)
Souvenir Sheet Size: 113.2 x 74.1 mm
Release date: 29 August, 2013
Production Co-ordination: Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd