Identifying and conserving resilient habitats in the British Virgin Islands

Informing conservation of globally threatened biodiversity by identifying forest habitats resilient to natural disasters in the British Virgin Islands.

Coastal view in British Virgin Islands

The forests of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) support globally threatened biodiversity including 27 plant and 14 animal taxa. Through 20 years of collaboration between the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands (NPTVI) and Fort Worth Zoo, knowledge of BVI’s threatened species, their distribution and threats has grown enormously. However, understanding of community-level characteristics and their importance for threatened species is lacking.

As observed following the devastation of Hurricane Irma in September 2017, forests play a key role in the resilience of the landscape and its natural resources to destructive events. With the forests of BVI still recovering from the impacts of Hurricane Irma, a unique opportunity exists to quantify the responses of vegetation and threatened species to such disturbances. The ability to identify the qualities important for sustaining viable populations of threatened species is paramount to inform management, recovery and priority setting to mitigate against future natural disasters.

Kew, NPTVI and Fort Worth Zoo are partnering to deliver capacity building, habitat-level survey, and globally threatened species census to enable local stakeholders to respond to, and mitigate against, the impacts of natural disasters in relation to the BVI’s globally threatened species. Exemplar species on four islands (Anegada, Fallen Jerusalem, Tortola, Virgin Gorda) are being used as case studies, including five Endangered or Critically Endangered tree species associated with distinct forest types: Calyptranthes kiaerskovii, C. thomasiana, Vachellia anegadensis, Varronia rupicola, Zanthoxylum thomasianum; and two Critically Endangered animal species: Cyclura pinguis (Anegada rock iguana), and Spondylurus anegadeae (Anegada skink).

Through field survey and mapping, the project will improve our understanding of the status of the BVI’s forests and the globally threatened plant and animal species and ecosystem services they support. Our international partnerships will deliver up-to-date biodiversity information and resources, bolster ex situ collections of globally threatened plant species and strengthened local capacity key to habitat recovery and mitigation of natural disasters. This will enable management that encourages future resilience and BVI partners will be empowered to secure biodiversity into the future.

  • Locations of forest habitat critical for globally threatened flora and fauna on four islands identified and mapped
  • Detailed census of globally threatened species (five plants and two animals) and population ecology profiled
  • Habitat requirements of globally threatened species (five plants and two animals) characterised
  • Ex situ collections of five globally threatened plants enhanced to support conservation
  • Capacity building delivered to enable NPTVI to establish new ex situ collections of globally threatened plant species, identify suitable habitat for those species and implement management to enhance resilience

The project DPLUS084 is funded by Darwin Plus (also known as The Overseas Territories Environment and Climate Fund) which is a UK Government grant fund designed to support fellowships and environmental projects in the UK Overseas Territories.

Further information


UKOTs online herbarium


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