Saint Helena: A Bastion of Biodiversity

Saint Helena: A Bastion of Biodiversity

2021, Nature  -   2 Comments
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Ratings: 8.69/10 from 13 users.

Midway between South America and Africa is the island of St. Helena, one of the most remote and isolated places on the planet. It sits in the South Atlantic Ocean, almost 800 meters above sea level, forming 14 million years ago, after thousands of years of volcanic eruptions.

A territory of the United Kingdom, its main claim to fame is that it is where Napoleon spent the last six years of his life in isolation and exile.

But many don't know that it is also home to almost one-third of all endemic species in the United Kingdom. An endemic species - be it insect, plant, or animal means that it is a species you can not find anywhere else in the world.

When it was discovered in the 1500s, Portuguese explorers and settlers introduced foreign animal species, including goats, cats, and rats, that negatively impacted its environment, and the island is still feeling its effects today.

These animals, especially the goats, decimated St.Helena's natural forests. Yet what has been left behind is extremely unique, fascinating and of international significance, as it points to the planet's natural state before man's age of exploration began.

Today, the people of St.Helena's are united in preserving their environment. Its natural redwoods, ebonies, and other endemic plants are struggling to survive. Invasive plants pose a threat, spreading all over the habitat and overtaking natural plant species' very slow rate of regeneration and growth.

A group of forest conservationists are working very hard to restore the island's forests, especially its cloud forest high up, with the hopes that the plants currently thriving there now will one day reach the shoreline again. The protection and regeneration of the forests have also given new life to the variety of insects such as woodlice and hoppers that are uniquely St.Helena's. Its bird population has also grown, especially on the bird sanctuary Egg Island with its bleached white landscape thanks to decades of bird droppings.

Scientists, oceanographers and conservationists are also busy studying the marine life around the island. St. Helena is a bastion of the elusive whale shark, and residents consider it as an indicator species, and how its general well-being provides clues that can tell a lot about the island's health.

But more help is needed. What once allowed the island to flourish and bloom is now a hindrance to its preservation. Being extremely remote makes it difficult to access labs and far from universities that can conduct studies. St. Helena's conservationists also need more manpower and financial resources to continue their studies.

With an expected increase in tourism, they are rushing to preserve, study and understand their natural resources so the island's natural wonders and ecosystem won't be compromised.

Directed by: Alexandra Childs, RĂ©mi Demarthon

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2 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Cilian

    St Helena aka "Paedophiles island"...

    1. Kathryn Connie Fines

      Eh? Why?