St Helena is home to almost a third of all endemic biodiversity found in the UK and its Overseas Territories. Of the vascular plants, 10 have less than 100 individuals remaining in the wild, and most are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Their survival requires safeguarding the fragments of remaining habitat on which they rely, as well as habitat restoration.
Restoration success depends on large scale planting of nursery grown natives, as the natural regeneration of St Helena’s endemic species is not sufficient to compete against massive regeneration of weeds. The rate at which native species can be produced by nurseries is the key factor limiting the area of habitat under active restoration.
In order to increase the diversity and abundance of plant species grown in the island’s nurseries it is necessary to increase capacity by expanding nursery space, maximising productivity through improving collective skill levels and developing more efficient production systems whilst minimising costs.
Description of the project
The project has increased the capability of St Helena’s conservation nurseries to produce much larger numbers of healthy genetically diverse endemic threatened plants by upgrading the facilities and expanding the work of the island’s three leading conservation focused nurseries: the Environmental Management Division’s (EMD) Peaks nursery which grows cloud forest species; EMD’s Scotland nursery which grows some dry-land, moist upland and cloud forest species; and St Helena National Trust’s nursery at the Millennium Forest which grows dry-land and desert species. It delivered a significant increase in the output of some of the world’s most threatened plants.
Each of the three nurseries work with Critically Endangered plants as categorised by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and have a successful track record of taking species from seed to field. Building on the wealth of knowledge held by the entire conservation community on St Helena, the project focused on building knowledge within committed nursery teams with an emphasis on partnership and collaboration.
The project demonstrated on St Helena and throughout the South Atlantic island conservation network, that collaboration, focus, and local commitment are the keys to conservation success.
Main Achievement :
The project successfully enhanced the capabilities of three endemic nurseries on island through providing better propagation facilities for producing an increased number of healthier and stronger endemic plants. This includes dryland species, and species found in the Cloud Forest.
Two nurseries increased their production area through construction of new nursery facilities (a polytunnel at the Peaks nursery and a shade house at Millennium Forest dryland nursery) and the third (at Scotland, St Helena) received a laminar flow cabinet to ensure sterile conditions for fern propagation.
Staff working at all three nurseries have gained increased knowledge through skill sharing workshops between the nurseries, as well as additional skills e.g. fern propagation.
Pests and diseases in all nurseries have greatly decreased due to improved facilities and sharing of knowledge and production has risen.
There is increased awareness amongst St Helena’s population about the island’s endemic species, the threats to them and the work being done to rescue them will be increased.
Communication and project visibility:
Regular project updates have been uploaded to the St Helena National Trust Community Forests Facebook page (@communityforests)
St Helena’s conservation nurseries:
National Trust’s nursery at the Millennium Forest
Tea plant, Salad plant and Cliff Hair Grass are the three endangered plant nursed at the Millennium Forest