Journal Archives > BGCNews > Conservation Assessment and Management Plan for St Helena: a Collaborative Workshop
Conservation Assessment and Management Plan for St Helena: a Collaborative Workshop
Volume 2 Number 4 - December 1994
Mike Maunder, Alastair Culham, Ulysses S. Seal, & Paul Pearce-Kelly
Conservationists face a very real challenge when developing priorities for species conservation, just how many species should be adopted for ex situ management and for what purpose? This is particularly relevant for botanic gardens, where managers have to select a limited number of species for ex situ propagation from an expanding number of candidate species. In May 1993, an exploratory exercise was held at Kew to assess the value of the conservation planning protocols of the Captive Breeding Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. Using the remote Atlantic island of St Helena as an example, the native biota (vascular plants, invertebrates, selected endemic marine fish, and the one native vertebrate) was reviewed with the aim of identifying conservation priorities and those taxa requiring management intervention to assure long term survival.
The Conservation Unit (Living Collections Division) of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is currently managing the Sustainable Environment and Development Strategy for St Helena. This project is funded by the British Government (ODA) on behalf of the Government of St Helena. This work is being undertaken in collaboration with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the St Helena Working Group. The strategy recognises the need to balance economic, social and ecological systems to support the goal of sustainable development. International experience has consistently shown that conservation strategies focusing on any one or two of these systems alone will not succeed.
One part of the project involved a review of the island's conservation priorities. This involved a review of the island's biota and the identification of actions required to prevent further reduction and degradation of surviving habitat fragments and extinction of endemic species. It was decided to use this opportunity for a exploratory workshop utilising the wide spectrum of expertise on St Helena resident in the UK, most notably the St Helenan Working Group. The workshop was chaired by Dr Ulie Seal of the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, a group whose primary goal is to contribute to the development of broadly based and viable conservation strategies and action plans for threatened species. The objective of the workshop was to review the applicability of CBSG protocols to botanical conservation and to general conservation planning for islands.
The conservation challenges facing managers are so enormous that it is imperative that the available limited resources are employed as efficiently and effectively as possible. The CBSG has developed protocols in response to this need; the Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (CAMP) and the Population Habitat Viability Analyses (PHVA).
Conservation Assessment and Management Plans (CAMPs)
CAMPs are developed to provide strategic guidance for information collection and intensive management of threatened taxa. They provide a rational and comprehensive means of assessing priorities for intensive management, including ex situ management, within the context of the broader conservation needs of the threatened taxa and associated habitats.
A CAMP workshop brings together 10-40 experts from a variety of backgrounds to evaluate the threat status of all taxa within a taxonomic group or defined geographical area, to set priorities for conservation action and information gathering actions. Within the Kew meeting the following disciplines were represented: conservation planning, ex situ management (zoological and botanical), population geneticists (zoological and botanical), data scientist (botanical) and postgraduate students. As many of the workshop participants should have direct experience of the taxon or area under review, and importantly the management authorities for the taxon or area under review should take the lead in the activity. It is an attempt to develop a process that will: 1) make broad based recommendations concerning species management: and 2) recommend specific conservation biology research needed to support the management and recovery of the species concerned.
The CAMP process is heavily dependent upon the interaction of specialists from a variety of backgrounds. Participants develop the assessment of risks and formulate recommendations for actions using a spreadsheet recording the status of species and habitats. The spreadsheets are supplemented with Taxon Data Sheets for each taxon under review. This sheet records information on distribution, range, area of occupation, wild popuations, number of populations, trends and threats.
During the workshop the size and value of both wild and captive populations are reviewed, with an attempt made to estimate size of populations. The CAMP process attempts to be as quantitative as possible for two major reasons: Action Plans should establish numerical objectives, numbers providing more objectivity and better focus.
CAMPs assess the degree of threat for each taxon in the wild and recommend appropriate action that may reduce the risk of extinction. During the workshop accurate and recent survey results were available, resulting from field work undertaken by Tim Upson (then RBG Kew) and George Benjamin (St Helena) in May 1993. Based on assessments carried out during the workshop a set of recommendations are produced, these include:
Population and Habitat Viability Analyses (PHVAs)
The PHVA workshop provides population viability assessments for each population of a specific taxa under review. The assessment for each taxon will vary in depth according to the information available on life history, population dynamics, ecology, known and potential threats and population history of the individual populations. All available pertinent information is collated before the workshop to allow for full briefing.
Using a computer simulation model (VORTEX programme) and group discussion the workshop exercises are able to assist the formulation of management scenarios for the species reviewed and evaluate the impacts of differing management regimes, disasters, disease, genetic problems etc.
Results of the CAMP and PHVA Workshops
Flora: The review was restricted to the native and endemic species of St Helena. Species were assigned the existing IUCN Categories of Threat and the proposed categories (Mace et al. 1992). The list of 60 species includes: 32 Dicotyledons, all evaluated, of which 6 are Extinct, 2 are Extinct in the Wild, 19 are Threatened including 7 Critical; 5 Monocotyledons, all evaluated, 1 Extinct, 4 are Threatened; and 24 Pteridophytes of which 5 were evaluated. Recommendations were made for detailed assessments and management planning (PHVAs) for 20 species, some 54 research and management projects were suggested, and 16 captive propagation programmes were recommended. (SEE TABLE) Preliminary PHVAs were conducted on 2 species, Commidendrum rotundifolium (Asteraceae) and Trochetiopsis melanoxylon (Sterculiaceae). These provisional studies suggested that existing re-introduction programmes are subject to a high risk of failure.
The following areas of relictual habitat were identified as priority areas for conservation:
The following taxa are recommended as candidates for immediate ex situ propagation programmes. All are recognised as having a very high probability of extinction in the wild. Any propagation programme should be based upon utilising all available founder individuals on the island:
Nesiota elliptica St Helena Olive
Commidendrum spurium False Gumwood
Commidendrum rotundifolium Bastard Gumwood
Wahlenbergia linifolia Large Bellflower
Trochetiopsis erythroxylon Redwood
Trochetiopsis melanoxylon Ebony
Phylica polifolia St Helena Rosemary
Sium burchellii Dwarf Jellico
A number of species are recognised as requiring trial cultivation to develop propagation/cultivation protocols in anticipation of any possible decline in population, e.g. Sium helenianum. Others are recovering well in the wild and do not justify cultivation ex situ for conservation purposes, e.g. Commidendrum rugosum or Perlagonium cotyledonis.
Invertebrates: The results underlined the vulnerable position of most of the island's endemic invertebrates, now largely dependent upon a mosaic of remnant habitats. Many species were recognised as facing competition or direct predation from exotic species. PHVAs were recommended for 25 species and 25 research and management projects were suggested. Six captive breeding programmes were recommended. In total 55 taxa were evaluated. Preliminary PHVAs were conducted on 2 species.
Vertebrates: The same review and assessment mechanisms highlighted the fragile status of the endemic Wire bird and the 10 endemic species of marine fish. A preliminary PHVA undertaken for the Wire bird indicated a high level of vulnerability due to mortality at the juvenile stage.
As a result of this first exploratory workshop it is evident that the procedures developed by the CBSG have great value to planners assessing regional and taxonomic priorities. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, will continue to refine these procedures to develop planning tools for botanic gardens.
In situ Conservation
In situ means "on site", so In situconservation is the conservation of species diversity within normal and natural habitats and ecosystems ecosystems. (By comparison, ex situ conservation focuses on keeping species in places such as seed banks or living collections.)
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