Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Territories of European Overseas (BEST 2.0)

Daniela Baigorri and Tara Pelembe

The BEST 2.0 Programme is a funding facility, supported by the European Commission as part of the EU Biodiversity for Life (B4Life) flagship. It aims to support the objectives of the BEST Initiative by facilitating the continuation of important environmental and conservation work providing grant funding for small-scale and medium-scale field actions on the ground for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the EU Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) - countries and territories with a special link to one of the following Member States: Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

 

The OCTs are found in five regions around the world:

• Pacific

• Caribbean

• South Atlantic

• Indian Ocean

• Polar and Sub-Polar

The South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI) is in charge of coordinating the BEST 2.0 project for the South Atlantic Overseas Territories (OTs) and cover the following areas: Ascension Island (UK), St Helena (UK), Tristan da Cunha (UK) and the Falkland Islands (UK)

Background

The majority of Europe’s biodiversity is found in its overseas entities – European Overseas Outer Regions (ORs) and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs). The OCTs span the globe from the Arctic to the Antarctic. They are set in unique environments, include recognized key biodiversity areas, and most are critical to ecosystem services of local, regional and global importance.

Biodiversity in the ORs and OCTs is very rich but also at risk, particularly from being vulnerable to invasive species, development and climate change. BEST 2.0 is essential to address the conservation and sustainable development needs in the European Overseas and  aims to pilot an innovative financing mechanism for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the EU OCTs by setting up a funding facility for small-scale and medium-scale field actions on the ground.

 

Objectives of BEST 2.0

  • Promote the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of ecosystem services, including ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation and mitigation, as a basis for sustainable development in OCTs.
  • Enable, empower and strengthen local authorities and civil society organisations which are committed to local development, biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of ecosystem services in OCTs.

 

  • BEST 2.0 is designed provide substantive and effective support for actions at local and regional level, regional cooperation being key in the regions where the OCTs are located. BEST 2.0 will also catalyse the efforts and will constitute a key contribution to the achievement of global objectives and goals in terms of biodiversity, sustainable development and climate change.

Actions

As a grant scheme, BEST 2.0 organises calls for proposals in order to fund actions on the ground, both at the local and regional level. 

Of a total of 7 Small Grant proposals for the 2015 Small Grant call, 4 projects were selected:

Restoration of Peak Dale’s St Helena Gumwood Forest

The Saint Helena gumwood, Commidendrum robustum, is endemic to the island and is listed as critically endangered on IUCN’s Red List. Situated towards the isolated Western end of Island, Peak Dale contains the last remnant of Saint Helena’s ancient gumwood forest. The forest shows signs of historical neglect due to a lack of resources for its management and restoration and currently there is almost no successful natural regeneration. Many of the surviving individuals are threatened by habitat transformation and damage caused by invasive non-native species (e.g. ring barking by rats and rabbits, trampling of seedlings and soil erosion by feral livestock, smothering by invasive non-native tree species). The gumwood forest is a key habitat and sole refuge for numerous species of flora and fauna, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.

Developing a site-based conservation approach for sei whales, Balaenoptera borealis, at Berkeley Sound

Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis) populations were severely depleted by about 80% during the commercial whaling industry of the mid-twentieth century, with most of the decline occurring in the Southern Hemisphere. Classified as 'Endangered' on the IUCN Red List, the present status of the South Atlantic population is still relatively unknown.

In the Falkland Islands, Berkeley Sound (including outer Port William and the waters around Cape Pembroke) has been identified as a ‘hotspot’ of sei whale occurrence and consequently proposed as a candidate Key Biodiversity Area. It is also the busiest area for vessel traffic in the Falklands, with current activities including trans-shipping, re-fuelling operations, anchoring, transits (e.g. cruise ships entering Stanley) and whale-watching.

 

Trails and interpretation improvements in the Peaks National Park, St Helena

The cloud forest of the Peaks National Park is the only remaining densely vegetated habitat type on St Helena which can still be considered predominantly native. Approximately 20 hectares of this remarkable ecosystem remain, confined to the highest ridges generally above 750 metres in altitude. It is dominated by a rich community of tree-fern thicket, habitat for many of the island’s rarest endemic plants, many of which are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.

In recognition of its ecological importance, the peaks were designated as a national park in 1996. Despite its biodiversity, the park is an extremely fragile ecosystem, constantly under threat from invasive plants, species loss, habitat fragmentation, climate change, and tourism.   

It is important that the unique environment of the Peaks National Park can be accessed in a way that minimises disturbance and protects the fragile environment from potential impacts those park users might cause.

 

Forest Restoration and Improved Biosecurity on Nightingale Island

Nightingale Island is the smallest of the 4 islands that make up the Tristan archipelago. It is home to millions of breeding seabirds, and two endemic land birds, including the Wilkins’ bunting (Nesospiza wilkinsi), which is listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List.

Only 80 pairs of Wilkins’ bunting breed on Nightingale but estimates of basic demographic parameters such as productivity and survival are limited. The persistence of the species is threatened by the small population size, their sensitivity to habitat loss, and the potential for accidental introductions of predators. The adults are found primarily in the Phylica woodland, which now only grows at the top of the island in fragmented remnants of a few hectares, and feed primarily on the Phylica seeds. Without the Phylica woodland, this highly specialised and endangered species would likely suffer serious declines, and potential extinction.

And of a total of 4 Medium Grant proposals for the 2016 Medium Grant call, 1 project was selected:

An ecological assessment of Ascension Island’s shallow-water seamounts as candidate Marine Protected Areas

In 2014, Ascension Island Government (AIG) suspended the fishery whilst they reviewed and updated fisheries legislation and licensing criteria to provide the strong legal framework from which the fishery will operate, as well as considering options for the creation of large-scale marine reserves. As of December 2015 the commercial fishery re-opened in 50% of the Exclusive Fishing Zone (EFZ), with the remaining 50% of the zone closed to commercial fishing.

The current closed area covers over 220,000 km2, including the entire southern half of the EFZ and an inner ring of 50 nautical miles surrounding the Island, making it the largest no-take zone in the Atlantic Ocean. However, a knowledge of the distribution dynamics of fishery-targeted species (principally bigeye and yellowfin tuna) and vulnerable by-catch species, such as sharks and billfish, is particularly important to determine if closed areas are appropriately located and sized to deliver positive impacts for these species. Although highly mobile, these large pelagic species are rarely uniformly distributed in space, instead tending to aggregate around productive oceanographic features (such as frontal zones and eddies) and topographic features (such as islands and seamounts) where they may be disproportionately at risk from commercial fisheries. Identifying these key habitats and risk areas is a critical step in determining the optimal configuration for Ascension’s marine reserve(s).


Links of interest:

https://portals.iucn.org/best/

https://www.iucn.org/

https://europa.eu/european-union/index_en

http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/eu-biodiversity-life-b4life-flagship-initiative-brochure_en

 

Contact:

Daniela Baigorri

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

P: +500 27374

Skype: BEST 2.0 SA Hub

 

Tara Pelembe

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P: +44 1733 866919

Skype: tara-pelembe