The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean on the Patagonian Shelf. The principal islands are about 300 miles east of South America's southern Patagonian coast and about 752 miles from the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, at a latitude of about 52°S. The archipelago, with an area of 4,700 square miles, comprises East Falkland, West Falkland, and 776 smaller islands.
The Falkland Islands are biogeographically part of the Antarctic zone, with strong connections to the flora and fauna of Patagonia in mainland South America. Land birds make up most of the Falklands' avifauna; 63 species breed on the islands, including 16 endemic species. There is also abundant arthropod diversity on the islands. The Falklands' flora consists of 163 native vascular species. The islands' only native terrestrial mammal, the warrah, was hunted to extinction by European settlers.
The islands are frequented by marine mammals, such as the southern elephant seal and the South American fur seal, and various types of cetaceans; offshore islands house the rare striated caracara. There are also five different penguin species and a few of the largest albatross colonies on the planet. Endemic fish around the islands are primarily from the genus Galaxias. The Falklands are treeless and have a wind-resistant vegetation predominantly composed of a variety of dwarf shrubs.
Virtually the entire land area of the islands is used as pasture for sheep. Introduced species include reindeer, hares, rabbits, Patagonian foxes, brown rats and cats. Several of these species have harmed native flora and fauna, so the government has tried to contain, remove or exterminate foxes, rabbits and rats. Endemic land animals have been the most affected by introduced species, and several bird species have been extirpated from the larger islands. The extent of human impact on the Falklands is unclear, since there is little long-term data on habitat change.