An earlier account from 2011 of this significant project:
The St Helena National Trust were extremely lucky and are very grateful to have been awarded nearly £300k from the Darwin Initiative for a three year programme to ‘Increase local capacity to conserve St Helena’s threatened native biodiversity‘, and more specifically to halt biodiversity loss in the species-rich High Peak and Blue Point areas on St Helena, through increasing local awareness to deliver practical habitat restoration and management.
The Darwin Initiative, funded by the UK’s Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural affairs (DEFRA) assists countries that are rich in biodiversity but poor in financial resources to meet their objectives under one or more of the three major biodiversity Conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES); and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), through the funding of collaborative projects which draw on UK biodiversity expertise.
St Helena holds a rich and globally unique biological heritage, which includes over 400 known endemic species. Flagship species include the ancient endemic arborescent Asteraceae. However, centuries of exploitation and change of land-use have left the island’s native ecosystems severely degraded. A large proportion of the island’s flora and fauna is now on the brink of extinction, surviving in isolated remnant habitats which are facing significant ongoing threats, particularly rapid encroachment by invasive species and increasing erosion, which is why the Darwin Project is so important to the Island.
Of the 45 endemic higher plant species which have been assessed, 40% are categorised as Critically Endangered (IUCN, 2009 Red List); the St Helena Olive became globally extinct in November 2003. We hope that the project can go some way in halting species loss like this again on St Helena.
The project seems particularly apt as even Charles Darwin, when he visited the island in 1836, commented on the flourishing non-native plants, and now a project in his name is trying to control these:
“When we consider that the number of plants now found on the island is 746, also from the opposite quarter of Australia succeed remarkably well.”nd that out of these fifty-two alone are indigenous species, the rest having been imported, and most of them from England, we see the reason of the British character of the vegetation. Many of these English plants appear to flourish better than in their native country; some also from the opposite quarter of Australia succeed remarkably well”
The project has developed a Diploma in Environmental Conservation which will be run for budding apprentices on the island, who will be the ground-force in eradicating non native species and planting out endemics in their place. Education packs for local schools curricula will also be produced to encourage even the smallest school child to get involved in conservation on the island, hopefully creating a passion at an early age to ensure a sustainable future for conservation on the island.
The development of eco-tourism activities is also part of the project and we hope to involve our new National Trust rescued donkeys to help promote tree planting and other conservation activities on St Helena.
The project will disseminate its results both on-island and internationally. The practical restoration techniques implemented in target areas will provide case studies in habitat recovery and invasive control. The establishment of the demonstration restoration area by the road at High Peak has easy access and interpretation to showcase best practice in practical conservation initiatives and facilitates wider community engagement.
The project will not reach an end point but will enable conservation work post-project to be carried out more effectively through capitalising on the increased capacity and best practice methods developed.
The Project partners include the RBG Kew who have a very active UK Overseas Territories programme and a long-term commitment to conserving St Helena’s unique flora, with current collaborative conservation projects including the OTEP-funded Supporting Critical Species Recovery and Horticultural Needs project. RBG Kew provide essential botanical and horticultural expertise and support for critical species conservation.
The Saint Helena Development Agency, responsible for developing the private sector on St Helena, is strongly supportive of the project. SHDA is providing considerable financial support to the conservation apprenticeship programme which will be started as part of this project. Data generated through this project will also be used to inform an environmental economic evaluation process taking place on St Helena. The results of this process will enable the socio-economic value of the natural environment to be better valued, supporting sustainable development policy and decision-making on St Helena.
To provide St Helena with an appropriately skilled and qualified workforce able to meet its future needs in relation to growth and sustainability by defining and meeting the changing training/learning community enterprises of St Helena through an efficient, cost-effective, professionally managed and centrally coordinated Adult and Vocational Education Service. We are very grateful to AVES for providing support for the Diploma in Environmental Conservation to the Project.