South Atlantic Invasive Species Capacity Building Project
Invasive species have been recognised as a threat to biological diversity worldwide, and the threat is particularly severe for island states. In order to build regional capacity to deal with this issue, the European Commission’s DG-Development has funded the South Atlantic Invasive Species Project, in which the Saint Helena National Trust is a partner. The project was implemented by RSPB starting in March 2007.
Work is ongoing to assess the status of invasive species on UK islands across the whole of the South Atlantic region. On St Helena a six month survey of the island’s plant distribution and abundance has just been completed. Most of St Helena’s existing flora is introduced with many of the species showing invasive characteristics. These plants in combination with a range of introduced herbivorous mammals and human activity over the past five centuries have eradicated St Helena’s native flora from much of the island. Remaining endemic species hang on in small, disparate niches. One of the highlights of the recent survey was the discovery of a small endemic sedge thought to have been extinct for 200 years.
Conservation efforts which commenced in the 1980s are now beginning to show results, though every step forward is won by physical hard work and the commitment of a small group of dedicated individuals. Small areas of the island have been cleared of invasive plants and with continued management are beginning to function as native ecosystems. The key to this success has been sustained funding and resources, over decades.
The invasive species project is contributing knowledge and resources on a wide front of invasive species issues affecting St Helena from the development of a regional early warning system and improved biosecurity to trialling protocols for control and eradication of known invasives.
The project team are pleased to able to work in close collaboration with the St Helena National Trust and to have had involvement in the development of ecological strategy for St Helena’s Millennium Forest and the recent Heart Shape Waterfall access project.
The South Atlantic Invasive Species Project ran until November 2009, for more information on the project, or the impacts of invasive species on Saint Helena, please contact Clare Miller, South Atlantic Project Manager, RSPB, or Andrew Darlow, St Helena/Ascension Project Officer.
The SAIS botanical survey report summarizes the state of plant invasions on the island today, and covers not just the botanical survey but also highlights management issues and suggestions for future actions.