Sunday, 30 June 2013

Conserving globally threatened bugs on the UK Overseas Territory of St Helena.

Bugs on the brink - Conserving St Helena's invertebrates
June 2013. Wildlife charity, Buglife - The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, has launched a 3-year ‘Bugs on the Brink' project, on the UK Overseas Territory of St Helena. Many of St Helena's unique invertebrates are on the brink of extinction, with some of its most iconic species, such as the Giant earwig, feared lost within living memory. Funded by the Darwin Initiative, the project will help to conserve St Helena's globally threatened invertebrates. This is the first time that anyone has set out to create a long-term plan for conserving St Helena's invertebrates.

400 endemic invertebrates
St Helena is one of the UK's ‘Overseas Territories', lying in the South Atlantic Ocean, mid-way between Africa and South America. It is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world and, for now, can only be reached by boat. The island's flora and fauna evolved in extreme isolation, resulting in more than 400 invertebrate species found nowhere else on Earth. For this reason, St Helena has been called the ‘Galapagos of the South Atlantic'.

Extinctions
Unfortunately, following its discovery by sailors in 1502, St Helena suffered immense environmental destruction, caused by introduced livestock and forest clearance. Today, much of the island's unique wildlife is threatened with extinction. Iconic invertebrates such as the Giant earwig (Labidura herculeana), Giant ground beetle (Aplothorax burchelli) and St Helena darter (a dragonfly - Sympetrum dilatatum) are believed lost within living memory. The remnants of the native flora and fauna are struggling to survive in habitat fragments, which occupy a tiny fraction of their original area. They also face a wide range of pressures from non-native plants and animals.

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