UK Overseas Territories: key achievements 2006 - 2011
Activities of the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) Science Team support on the ground conservation and our overall strategy is to enable UKOTs to implement all targets of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC).
UK Overseas Territories that were formerly colonies are a priority for the UK Government. In terms of unique biodiversity, these are far more important than metropolitan UK, and the Team works closely with the departments with responsibility for UKOTs: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development. Kew is a member of the Overseas Territories Biodiversity Group, an inter-departmental group chaired by Defra; we are also a member organisation of the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum, which brings together UK- and territory-based biodiversity organisations to promote co-ordinated conservation of UKOTs unique biodiversity. The Team works in partnership at a project level with Royal Society for Protection of Birds, Durrell, University of Exeter and Imperial College London. We have completed three successful Darwin Initiative and three Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP) funded projects with these partners during this reporting period. The UKOTs team has a well-developed portfolio of projects, some of which are long-term, extending beyond the current reporting period, whereas others with discrete time spans have been completed within this period.
Since 2006 UKOTs Team and their associate members (non-Kew staff employed locally in-territory on project funding) have undertaken fieldwork in 13 of the 16 UKOTs. This fieldwork is underpinned by collection of voucher specimens for Kew and the territory. All herbarium specimens have been scanned and data based (together known as digitisation) for incorporation into the UKOTs online herbarium, an ambitious project to provide easy access to specimen and species level information and associated botanical resources to aid on the ground conservation and decision making. Historical specimens from the Kew Herbarium have also been digitised and to date >17,000 specimens have been digitised linking 10,000 species names (accepted names and synonyms) so that territory-specific checklists can be generated to achieve target 1 of the GSPC. These specimen data can be exported into Google Earth maps by way of 4,500 gazetteer locations created over the last two years. This approach has also been applied to our on-going work documenting invasive species including collaboration in the EU-funded South Atlantic Invasive Species Project, which resulted in the documentation and better understanding of the invasive plants in the South Atlantic Overseas Territories. We are also working with the Food and Environment Research Agency who are providing a pest identification service for UKOTs.
These field and historical data are used in a multiplicity of ways. All data are geo-referenced, and most are supported by habitat level information that enables vegetation maps to be created. For example, key outputs of two Darwin Initiative funded projects were vegetation maps for Montserrat and the island of Anegada in the British Virgin Islands. Both maps are being used by local governments in land-use decision making. Population-level data enables red-listing of threatened species to be undertaken, and red lists have been completed with partners for British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Falkland Islands with candidate red lists in place for several others. This work continues with an ambitious OTEP-funded project to complete the red listing process for all territories in the delivery of GSPC target 2. These data are further used to identify important plants areas (IPAs), and a major output of our work in the Falkland Islands has been documentation of a network of 17 IPAs. In Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands candidate IPAs have been identified, and work continues on achieving target 5 of the GSPC. Many components of our electronic field data collection and mapping work have been developed in house using novel methodologies and techniques developed specifically to achieve our field goals.
In situ conservation is complemented by wide-ranging ex situ conservation activities lead by a comprehensive seed collecting programme, which has to date resulted in 564 collections from 13 UKOTs being banked in the Millennium Seed Bank. These represent 380 plant taxa, 70 of which are endemic to UKOTs. Targeting of conservation priority species continues. Other ex situ activities include developing methodologies and undertaking horticultural protocols for threatened species (underway for 15 species from six territories, with nine completed from five territories); the Conservation Biotechnology Section (Jodrell) have 13 micropropagation protocols underway for threatened species from four territories. In Kew’s living collections, 218 live accessions from 12 territories are being cultivated. Population genetic studies guide conservation decision making, and valuable studies have been completed on threatened species from Bermuda, Falkland Islands and Montserrat.
In territories we are helping develop native species nurseries at Stanley Growers in the Falkland Islands, Montserrat National Botanic Garden, J. R. O’Neal Botanic Garden in Tortola, British Virgin Islands and the QEII Botanic Park on Grand Cayman. Specific collections of native species for local use and in particular as alternatives to non-native, potentially invasive species used in landscaping have been identified in several territories, marketed locally for example as the Cayman Collection and the Falklands Collection. Other local infrastructure developments have included establishing an ex situ nursery and conservation collection of Pinus caribaea var. bahamensis in response to the devastation of the native population by an invasive non-native scale insect in Turks and Caicos Islands.
Team fieldwork has resulted in the re-discovery of two previously thought extinct species: Bulbostylis neglecta on St Helena and Anogramma ascensionis on Ascension. Seeds of B. neglecta are banked at the Millennium Seed Bank, and gametophytes of A. ascensionis have been successfully stored in liquid nitrogen for the long-term, a technique being pioneered at Kew. Cryopreservation of spores of four threatened fern species from Ascension Island is also underway in the Conservation Biotechnology Section (Jodrell).
Management planning is an important outlet for information and a regular component of our project work is to help develop management plans, for example, the Action Plan for the Coastal Biodiversity of Anegada, 2006; Monserrat Centre Hills Management Plan, 2008-2010. Participation in the 2010 Scientific Expedition to the British Indian Ocean Territory provided data that supported the scientific case for the creation of the world's largest marine protected area, established in 2010.
All these conservation activities are underpinned by the development of appropriate methodologies and disseminated via the Kew website, blogs, newsletters, reports and publications. A strong capacity building approach underpins all our project work. Overseas partners have undertaken courses and bespoke training at Kew. Many workshops have been run in territories, including workshops on implementing the GSPC and CITES training. Our partners co-author reports and publications and present findings at conferences and congresses.
Conferences and workshops
Invitations have been accepted from many fora to present specific and on-going conservation work of the UKOTs Team:
- UK and in-territory government events including at FCO, Defra, JNCC, British Virgin Islands Government House in UK, Falkland Islands Government Office in UK, and Government Offices in many territories.
- UKOTs Team members have been invited speakers at the last two World Botanic Gardens Congresses in Wuhan, China 2007 (oral paper, poster, session chair) and Dublin, Ireland 2010 (2 oral papers, poster)
- Regional network meetings eg Caribbean Botanic Gardens Network Conference, Cuba 2008 (oral paper, poster); UK Overseas Territories Conservation Conferences: Jersey 2006 (2 oral papers, poster, workshop, session chair), Grand Cayman 2009 (2 oral papers, poster, workshop, session chair)
- A Defra-funded workshop was organized and run on implementation of the GSPC in the Caribbean Region, hosted in Montserrat where our Darwin Project provided the fieldtrip opportunities and context for meeting GSPC targets.
- All UKOTs science and conservation work links directly with CBD implementation and in particularly achieving all targets of the GSPC.
- Outputs of our work feed directly into the individual environment charters agreed between the territory governments and the UK Government.
- Work by the UKOTs team has contributed to a review of potential Ramsar sites in the UKOTs and inclusion of UKOTs in the UK long list for World Heritage designation.
- CITES implementation training has been conducted in Anguilla, Cayman Islands and Montserrat. Kew provides on-going CITES advice for many territories and is the Scientific Authority for plants for Anguilla and British Indian Ocean Territory.
Science Team Leader: Colin Clubbe
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