For the past 3 months, Project Officer Tom Kitching has been getting used to life on the island of St Helena and exploring the famous hiking trails. In terms of project work, this has so far involved meeting community members, gathering environmental data and developing first-hand knowledge of the island’s endemic biodiversity, unique geology and fascinating cultural heritage. This information has been incorporated into a series of baseline data reports, which will help to inform the development of management plans for 13 of St Helena’s National Conservation Areas (NCAs). The reports include all currently available information on the protected species, natural capital, built heritage and culturally significant sites within the NCAs, and will ensure that plans include a comprehensive account of all current information and highlight true knowledge gaps and priorities for further work.
Endemic dwarf ebony shrubs (foreground) on ebony plane with high hill in the background. High hill and ebony plane are one of St Helena's six Nature Reserves; an important site for naturally-occurring remnants of endemic plants.
An obvious flagship species for conservation work on St Helena is its only endemic terrestrial vertebrate: the wirebird. This charismatic species is known for its thin spindly legs, a distinctive morphological feature from its closest living relative in mainland Africa. This project will inform the sustainable management of the species’ core breeding sites, designated as ‘Important Wirebird Areas (IWAs)’. Tireless annual monitoring efforts for the last 20+ years have ensured that there is good data to demonstrate how adult numbers have changed in various sub-populations around the island, revealing associated population trends in the IWAs and eluding to their current conservation status. This will help to prioritise work and inform management options for NCAs in which the wirebird is an important feature.