St Helena is an extraordinary melange of incredible scenery that has been cloaked in vegetation at the higher elevations where mist and rain are sufficient, with an arid skirt of relatively bare soil and sheer cliffs around the edges. These have been worked upon by natural forces and human introductions and interventions over the past five centuries. Alien vegetation, much of it now naturalised, goats, and other livestock, rats, mice, Myna Birds and introduced invertebrates have all made their mark. St Helena’s isolation and its rugged terrain have been the saviour of a few relicts of the original natural habitats and their constituent species. In places a species has adapted to the new habitats – like the Wirebird today seen in livestock pastures, on the Golf Course and on Francis Plain. In others, tiny fragments of habitat persist such as the Peak Dale Gumwoods, and Scrubwood and Tea Plant on the edge of the Man and Horse cliffs, Rosemary and Dwarf Ebony far down the sheer cliffs at Blue Point.
Ever since the order was given to wall off the Gumwoods of the Longwood area, there have been concerned and dedicated individuals who have been able to see that lack of action would mean the complete loss through extinction of these relics of the past. Today their efforts slowly begin to bear fruit, but these efforts will need to be maintained for decades, if not centuries. Lie on the ground in the Millennium Forest, and watch the clouds drift past the young Gumwoods above you and imagine the forest these will be in decades to come. Admire the characteristic branching pattern of those mature trees protected at Peak Dale, sit amongst the tree ferns below Cuckolds, or see Speery Island over a flowering Scrubwood at Man and Horse – this is to experience the St Helena of the past, to wonder at the enormity of centuries of isolation, lack of contact and the evolutionary radiation of the few animals and plants that did make it here across the vast waters of the Atlantic.
It is the efforts made by the Trust to help conserve these fragments of our living heritage that are described in the project pages here. Share with us the efforts being made now, admire those already completed, be grateful for the support provided by other institutions, the government and many, many individuals, and if you will join us, share in the challenges and satisfaction, and please add your support?
Natural Heritage conservation projects currently underway are the following:
- Millennium Forest
- Increasing Local Capacity to Conserve St Helena’s Native Biodiversity
- Wirebird (or St Helena Plover) Conservation
- “Bugs on the Brink”
- Large Bellflower
- Spiky Yellow Woodlouse
- She Cabbage