The French Southern Lands – Crozet archipelago, Kerguelen islands, and Saint-Paul and Amsterdam islands – are a realm of seabirds and marine mammals and host an incomparable species diversity and populations. The fauna and flora present original adaptations developed in extreme isolation over millions of years of evolution, thousands of kilometers away from any continent. These volcanic islands with extraordinary landscapes are recognized as the last evidence of an original, wild and rich nature.

Despite their isolation, the biodiversity of these territories is affected by global change and threats related to human activities on the territory (e.g. biological invasions, fisheries bycatch, various types of pollution).To guarantee the long-term preservation of this exceptional nature, the French Southern Lands were classified in 2006 as a national nature reserve—the highest level of protection, in France, for natural heritage. In addition, all areas essential for the breeding and feeding of marine species are a part of the nature reserve since its extension in 2016, thus promoting long-term population maintenance.

The TAAF administration, which manages the nature reserve, is working to implement a strict environmental management. Like other protected nature areas in France, the nature reserve’s management plan, drafted in close collaboration with the scientific community, provides a roadmap to ensure the conservation of this exceptional heritage. It sets management goals and plans the conservation actions that need to be carried out within the nature reserve.

Following on from the first management plan (2011-2015), the second ten-year management plan (2018-2027) focuses on 7 conservation objectives for the nature reserve. They summarize the manager’s responsibilities for the conservation of species, habitats, essential ecological functions and cultural values. These objectives are like the nature reserve’s identity card, in the sense that they define the value and ensure the representativeness of its natural heritage throughout the territory. In addition to these 7 conservation objectives, it is worth mentioning 2 key factors of success, which are physical and intangible transversal conditions that are essential for the manager to fulfill his mission to conserve the natural heritage on the long term.

 

Conservation objectives of the second management plan of the French Southern Lands NNR.

CONSERVATION OBJECTIVE 1. The wilderness of the French Southern Lands

 

The isolation and harsh environmental conditions of the French Southern Lands have strongly limited human settlement and exploitation of the islands in the past. Even today, human presence and activities are very limited. Apart from bases, shelters in isolated sites and the passage of ships, there is very little human infrastructure on the territory, which makes it wild. With a rich, almost intact biological heritage, these sub-antarctic islands are sanctuaries for fauna and flora. The first objective of the nature reserve is to preserve the territory’s wilderness. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to carry out actions to limit the influence and ecological footprint of human activities within the nature reserve.

Operational objectives:
– Reduce the ecological footprint of sub-antarctic bases
– Dismantle unused infrastructure
– Limit the human impact of activities outside the bases
– Reduce the ecological footprint of ships

CONSERVATION OBJECTIVE 2. The good state of preservation of southern terrestrial ecosystems

Southern terrestrial ecosystems are well preserved but may be subject to disturbance, including in areas far from the bases. Disturbances consist mainly in the impact of introduced animal and plant species, which modify habitats and landscapes and threaten native species. The national nature reserve takes measures to maintain the good state of preservation of the southern terrestrial ecosystems, especially by implementing actions to better document and limit the impacts of introduced species.

Operational objectives:
– Strengthen and maximize the population dynamics of Phylica arborea
– Control, and if possible eliminate, introduced plant species that present a risk of biological invasion in the territory
– Manage introduced mammal populations that threaten native species and habitats
– Reduce the introduction and dispersal of alien species by people who visit the nature reserve
– Reduce the introduction and dispersal of alien species via cargo
– Detect species introductions as quickly as possible
– Strengthen knowledge about terrestrial species and ecosystems within the nature reserve

CONSERVATION OBJECTIVE 3. Rich and diverse southern marine ecosystems

The operation of the French Southern Lands and their interest in the remarkable flora and fauna of these territories are related to their marine nature . Indeed, their continental shelves offer rare shallow areas where marine life can develop intensely. The waters that surround the islands are located near the polar front and the subtropical convergence, which makes them particularly rich in pelagic species (crustaceans, squid, fish, etc.). They provide seabirds and pinnipeds, who gather by the thousands, with their main source of food. The vastness of the southern waters that are classified as a nature reserve, which now extends over 672,000 km2, includes all the functional areas essential to the maintenance of high concentrations of marine species (e.g. feeding, spawning and nursery areas). The third objective of the nature reserve is therefore to ensure the good ecological status of these rich and diverse marine ecosystems by improving the knowledge of the way they function and by limiting the human impacts on these environments.Operational objectives:
– Capitalize existing data on the marine environment
– Have a good quality bathymetry map and grid of environmental data
– Improve knowledge about marine habitats in order to better adapt the management measures of the nature reserve
– Identify and characterize essential functional areas
– Identify sources of pressure on marine ecosystems in order to implement appropriate management measures
– Improve knowledge about the marine environment of Saint-Paul and Amsterdam
– Improve knowledge about the impact of marine alien species on native habitats and species
– Improve knowledge about ecosystem services

 

CONSERVATION OBJECTIVE 4. High concentrations of seabirds and marine mammals

The French Southern Lands NNR is home to some of the highest concentrations of seabirds and marine mammals in the world. On land, these species find favorable conditions to breed and molt. At sea, primary production areas are important and play a vital role in their diet. The land-sea interface is therefore essential for the balance of seabird and marine mammal populations that visit the territory. The nature reserve thus bears a strong responsibility for the conservation of these species worldwide.

Operational objectives:
– Improve the dynamics of endangered seabird populations
– Strengthen and develop knowledge about seabirds and marine mammals

CONSERVATION OBJECTIVE 5. Sustainable exploitation of marine species populations

 

The marine natural heritage of the French Southern Lands is made up of extremely productive environments. Their diversity of species and biomass represent some of the most important fishing resources in the Southern Ocean. With this in mind, the conditions for preserving these resources must be guaranteed, especially by limiting impacts and maintaining and restoring exploited marine resources. The scientific expertise of the French National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) in the management of southern fisheries is one of the strengths of the fishery management model that has been promoted by the TAAF for several years. Another strength is the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification procedure that the fishing operators are invested in to show the sustainability of these fisheries. The challenge of this fifth objective is therefore based on the capacity of the nature reserve to set up an optimal ecosystem-based management system for southern fisheries that is compatible with the conservation objectives of such a protected area.

Operational objectives:
– Maintain and develop the acquisition of knowledge about exploited marine resources
– Strengthen the fisheries management framework
– Limit bycatch
– Limit orca and sperm whale interactions with fishing boats
– Exchange with the operators of the southern fisheries.

CONSERVATION OBJECTIVE 6. A sentinel territory, a living laboratory and an observatory for biodiversity and global change

Thanks to their ecological preservation and remoteness from human activities, the French Southern Lands are true living labs that contribute since the 1950s to the development of earth and life sciences in the sub-antarctic. Observations and long-term monitorings conducted in the territory provide a better understanding of the impacts of human activities and global change on ecosystems. However, due to isolation and access difficulties, some zones and taxonomic groups are little or not known, and require appropriate logistic and technical means for the implementation of innovative and exploratory studies. As such, the French Southern Lands are a key territory for monitoring biodiversity and its evolution in the context of global change, reinforcing France’s position as a leader in sub-antarctic scientific research.

Operational objectives:
– Better know unknown taxonomic groups
– Better know little-studied geographic areas
– Understand the long-term effects of global change at the local and global scale to better adapt the management and regulations of the nature reserve
– Monitor the conservation status of terrestrial species and environments

CONSERVATION OBJECTIVE 7. A unique cultural heritage

The historic heritage of the French Southern Lands is linked to their discovery, as well as to the subsequent attempts at economic exploitation that have affected populations of seabirds and marine mammals. Despite the impact caused by these undertakings, the remains of past infrastructure are a true movable heritage in the history of the French Southern Lands, and a precious tool to raise public awareness about the over-exploitation of biological resources by humans and the fragility of the natural environments and species that the nature reserve protects today. The movable heritage of these territories, which is still visible today through buildings and historic artifacts present in all three districts, is inseparable from the exceptional natural heritage of these southern areas. In the same way as with the previous objectives, the nature reserve is responsible for restoring and preserving this unique cultural heritage.

Operational objectives:
– Complete knowledge about ancient human presence in the nature reserve
– Protect and conserve the historic movable heritage present in the nature reserve

Key factors for the success of the second management plan of the national nature reserve of the French Southern Lands.

FACTOR OF SUCCESS 1. Ensure the efficient and sustainable management of the nature reserve and guarantee the conditions for its proper operation

To efficiently protect the natural heritage of the French Southern Lands in the long term, the TAAF administration, as the manager of the nature reserve, must have an efficient organization and tools (e.g. evolving management plan, database, biodiversity observatory). The definition of a sound regulatory and institutional framework, and the establishment of means of control are essential for the protection of species and environments.

Operational objectives:
– Have a regulatory and institutional framework
– Enforce the regulations in the nature reserve
– Have tools to guide the species conservation strategy
– Have tools to input and exploit data and samples collected in the field
– Provide the nature reserve with an evolving management plan and reporting tools
– Register the nature reserve with national and international networks of stakeholders

 

FACTOR OF SUCCESS 2. Raise awareness, promote and make the nature reserve known

The French Southern Lands NNR is an ideal communication medium to raise awareness among users and the general public about the preservation of the natural heritage and ensure its recognition. Given the remoteness of the territory and the continuous human presence within the nature reserve (scientific bases), communication actions, staff training and the valorization of the actions developed within the nature reserve are essential to guarantee that the environmental issues of the territory are absorbed, to promote the success of the actions carried out by the nature reserve, to establish its territorial integration and to bring a recognition to the site.

Operational objectives:
– Have a communication strategy
– Strengthen communication with and awareness of the users of the nature reserve and the general public
– Make the nature reserve more visible through events and the media