Moving forward with management planning for St Helena’s Important Wirebird Areas

Thomas Kitching

Following completion of a review of environmental data from St Helena’s protected areas, the past few months have been focussed on developing management plans for the 5 important wirebird areas and drafting objectives relating to preservation of the wirebird across all the National Conservation Areas.
Thanks to the astute monitoring efforts of the St Helena National Trust, we have a good understanding of the problems facing the wirebird and a reasonable idea of how populations are fluctuating in different areas. The primary drivers of wirebird population change are predations levels, road collisions and pasture management. One of the reasons for the wirebirds’ relative success on St Helena (all other land vertebrates are today extinct) is its ability to adapt to agricultural landscapes. The encroachment of invasive scrub species make these areas unsuitable and this is a focus of conservation efforts today. So it is good to see that much of the work required to improve prospects for the wirebird is already underway. There are still some areas where research can be developed further, particularly relating to how prey availability is affecting wirebird behaviour and how this varies between habitats.
Otherwise, time has been spent reviewing the findings of the baseline report with key scientific stakeholders to agree objectives for future conservation and research. Much of the remaining communities of endemic plants are confined to coastal cliffs, with natural regeneration inhibited by invasive plants, rabbits and escaped livestock. Managing these threats will therefore form the basis of conservation actions for NCAs with significant communities of endemic plants.
Image below : Coastal cliff communities of plants endemic to St Helena
A public opinion survey was also conducted, which revealed useful insights into the public perception of the NCAs and how the work should be prioritised. As expected, the more remote parts of the island were poorly known about and seldom visited, but the survey highlighted which areas were particularly important for public recreation. Generally the public were supportive of the project and understood the need to balance conservation work against economic development.
Surveying for endemic plants on cliffs in the South West of St Helena.
The project is funded by the UK Government through the Darwin Plus Fund : DPLUS154


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