St Helena Cloud Forest Project update –
November 2021 What is the St Helena Cloud Forest Project?
The St Helena Cloud Forest Project is a highly collaborative multi-year project working to implement the Peaks Management Plan for St Helena’s ‘Peaks National Park’.
This globally significant area holds over one sixth of the UK’s total endemic biodiversity (approximately 250 unique species), provides the majority of the island’s freshwater through mist capture and groundwater recharge, and offers a unique wilderness experience in an area that has been voted one of St Helena’s ‘Seven Wonders’.
Over the next five years works will take place within the Peaks National Park under these main pillars:
Biodiversity – improving, restoring and creating cloud forest habitat and conservation of associated species with the aim of safeguarding an internationally important wildlife hotspot from further extinctions. Water security and climate change, Re-vegetating – around native habitat fragments in key areas of mist, Capture, monitoring and research – to inform and secure the island’s water security and climate change adaptation efforts.
Socio-economic – supporting the sustainable development of St Helena by developing opportunities through ecotourism, education, sustainable land use, and conservation training. Staff and partner updates General Funding of £900K for 2021-2022 has been provided by the UK Government, with matched funding from project partners and under various Darwin Plus projects, taking the total funding up the value of £1.3million for Year 1.
The project is being managed by the RSPB with local partners including St Helena Government (EMD – Environmental Management Division, Sustainable Development, Education, SHRI – St Helena Research Institute), St Helena National Trust, Connect St Helena, Met Office and international partners including Arctium, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, University of British Columbia, and British Geological Survey.
Since the funding announcement in July the project team has been busy setting up the project and coordinating with existing research and conservation work. The focus for this year is on scaling up the capacity of St Helena to restore its cloud forest through staffing and international expertise, equipment and infrastructure.
This has involved recruitment of new staff to help achieve the aims of the Peaks implementation plan; research and procurement of new equipment and assets; contract agreements with project partners; upgrading of buildings to support a new lab; and preparation and logistics for the arrival of several international project partners and researchers in January through to March 2022. RSPB Project Manager Kirstie Pritchard, and Project Co-ordinator Shayla Ellick were recruited to support the management of the project and facilitate co-ordination among partners.
Both have worked on St Helena previously in their roles in the Landscape & Ecology Mitigation Programme for the St Helena Airport Project. Kirstie brings over 15 years of project and people management experience in the environment field; and Shayla almost a decade of conservation and management experience, primarily on St Helena.
The RSPB project management team, including Senior Species Recovery Officer Sarah Havery, was on-island in November for project and partner inductions, site visits, and project promotion. Staff and partner updates St Helena National Trust Invertebrate Specialist Liza Fowler was recruited to lead on and deliver the invertebrate activities for the project. Liza brings extensive knowledge of St Helena invertebrates with her 8 years of working for the Trust under previous invertebrate projects.
What happened under each pillar?
SHG In addition to the nursery and field teams already busy working on the Peaks and at Scotland; EMD has recruited 4 new members of staff to deliver habitat creation and restoration activities under this project, with one more post still bring recruited.
SHRI is also recruiting a research assistant who will spend half their time on the Cloud Forest project supporting and facilitating the roll-out of an applied research programme for the project.
- Preparatory works to set up a new micro-propagation lab for ex situ propagation of fern species, and expansion of current seed banking facilities at EMD nursery.
- A priority species list produced to inform research and action on endemic and invasive invertebrates.
- Invertebrate training and skills development opportunities for field teams.
- Consultation with local stakeholders to improve access to the Peaks nursery.
- Research license applications submitted to support Q4 research.
- Launch of a bursary for student research on a priority area for the cloud forest.
- The field teams under Darwin projects continue to build their skills and knowledge while working toward their project objectives. Water security and climate change
- The set-up of a water monitoring network is approximately 90% complete with the final sites to be identified before the end of Q3. Research and procurement of equipment to support this is complete.
- Sites to support climate monitoring have been identified and additional equipment procured. Socio- economic
- The primary level education pack is being updated by the St Helena National Trust incorporating Cloud Forest information and feedback from project partners and local schools.
- A logo competition for the Peaks National Park has been launched and plans are underway to develop online information and resources for the St Helena Cloud Forest Project. • Research on composting toilets and assessment of the feasibility of siting these for use on or near the Peaks is almost complete. What’s coming up?
- A multi-disciplinary team of researchers will be on island in January and February 2022 to carry out research and training on water and climate monitoring, soil sample analysis, plant and invertebrate surveys, seed-banking, and sampling for genetic research. The micro-propagation lab will be set up and intensive training provided.
- Launch of website and social media pages, in addition to use of marketing and communications to raise the profile of the project and the work and research being undertaken.
The project in the media RSPB and SHG released press releases to promote the project after the announcement of funding for Year 1.
Governor Rushbrook promoted the project on Twitter after a visit to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. A locally produced film on the restoration of the endemic She Cabbage won an award at COP26; and the Peaks restoration was discussed in an associated BBC World Service Newhour interview with SHG Marketing Manager Emma Weaver. A video funded by the International National Trusts Organisation promoted the work at the cloud forest, with narrative provided by SHNT’s Martina Peters; this was launched at COP26. SAMS and Saint FM radio interviews promoted the project locally.
La flota gallega parte para Malvinas con un alza del 61 % en el combustible