Ascension Island Government

Conservation

About Conservation

Safeguarding Ascension's biodiversity and ecosystems through protection, restoration and long-term management to create a legacy for the future.

Welcome to the AIG Conservation and Fisheries Directorate pages. Learn more about the diverse and special flora and fauna that call Ascension home, explore the Island's nature reserves and heritage sites and read about the work underway to conserve and restore Ascension Island's unique natural ecosystem.

Projects

In 2001 the Ascension Island Government and the UK Government signed the Ascension Island Environment Charter, outlining guiding principles and a commitment to the protection of the Island's environment. Since then AIG Conservation and Fisheries Directorate (AIGCFD) has made steady progress in conserving and promoting the Island’s unique biodiversity. Working with partners and supporters the Directorate carries out practical conservation tasks along with a number of research projects. If individuals or organisations are interested in conducting research either on Ascension Island or within Ascension's Exclusive Economin Zone, an Environmental Research Permit must first be requested and approved. Please email all enquiries and completed forms to the Directorate.

Volunteering with us

AIGCFD welcomes volunteers who are keen to get outdoors and involved with the work the directorate carries out. There are many activities throughout the year that volunteers can help with such as working with the Reserve Warden team or removing invasive species.

For those interested in volunteering or to find out what activities are available please call 66359, email the department or pop in to the Conservation Centre in Georgetown.

All volunteers will need to complete a volunteer form before undertaking any volunteering activities. These can be downloaded online or are available in hard copy from the Conservation Centre.

Booking a Tour

AIGCFD run a selection of tours depending on time of year and availability. Tours are available around the Island and Green Mountain, and during turtle nesting and crab spawning events. Turtle and land crab tours are free to island residents.

If individuals are interested in booking a tour please call 66359, email the directorate or pop in to the Conservation Centre in Georgetown.

Safeguarding Biodiversity

Find out more about our work to safeguard Ascension’s unique biodiversity in this short documentary produced by Bryony Stokes and funded by the Darwin Initiative:

Conservation image credit to AIG Conservation, Sam Weber, Jude Brown, and Steve Brown.

Meet the Teams

The Ascension Island Government Conservation and Fisheries Directorate (AIGCFD) comprises of several different teams that are listed below. Each team has their own specialty and responsibilities, working together to protect the whole of Ascension Island's biodiversity.

AIGCFD as a whole is also involved in outreach and the local community, organising public events such as family fun days, volunteer days, beach cleans and participating in the Ascension Day Fair. During the school holidays the directorate runs ‘Explorers’ for young people to discover the unique habitats and wildlife of Ascension. Throughout the school year the team regularly lead school trips and classroom lessons. AIGCFD also coordinates youth trainee internships and work experience placements available for local school students. Souvenirs are also on sale in the Conservation Centre's shop.

An annual newsletter is sent to partners and interested bodies while local people can keep up-to-date through articles in the weekly island newsletter. For those interested in receiving the newsletter, please email AIGCFD.

Information on conservation work under way on Ascension's sister island of St Helena can be found on the St Helena government website.

Terrestrial Conservation

Terrestrial Conservation

The Terrestrial Conservation Team have varied responsibilities that encompass the diversity of flora and fauna that live or spend part of their life cycle on Ascension Island. These responsibilities can often intertwine and overlap.

Seabird Team

Seabirds

Ascension Island supports nationally and internationally important populations of nesting seabirds including the endemic Ascension Frigatebird. AIGCFD monitors the health of these populations, performing regular census and monitoring key colonies to record how many chicks successfully fledge.

Unique rings and specialised tags are used to uncover where individual birds travel and can provide information about breeding and survival rates. Seabird diet is monitored as an indicator of the health of the marine ecosystem.

Plant Team

Plants

There are at least 25 plants that are native to Ascension - including 10 endemic species, of which only 7 are still alive. These endemic plants are heavily threatened by invasive plant and pest species, climate change and human activity.

The directorate strives to tackle these challenges, monitoring plant health and abundance while taking active conservation efforts through nursery work, habitat restoration, and propagation trials. Seeds and spores are collected and stored at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank as a conservation failsafe.

Turtle Team

Turtles

Ascension Island has the second largest nesting population of green turtles in the Atlantic ocean, with over 25,000 nests annually. AIGCFD conducts a long term population monitoring project studying the trends and productivity of the green turtles.

This work includes track and nest counts, measuring hatching success and recording nest temperatures. During the nesting season (December-June), guided turtle tours are run in the evening for residents and visitors to view nesting turtles.

Crab Team

Crabs

The land crab is a near-endemic of Ascension Island, found only here and on two islands off Brazil. AIGCFD’s Operation Land Crab project was created to address the lack of information on the status of the population and the threats they face.

Data is collected on spawning behaviour and growth rates during the spawning season from Feb-Apr. Individual crabs are also tagged to track migration. This baseline data can be used to develop robust population monitoring protocols and improve our ecological understanding of this species.

Mexican Thorn

Invasive Species Control

Ascension has seen many introduced species since it was first settled in 1815. Several of these species have had a major impact, reshaping habitats and ecosystems that native flora and fauna rely on.

AIGCFD controls and removes invasive plant species within clearance zones covering protected areas, areas of natural beauty and other important conservation areas.

Marine Conservation

marine team photo 800x600

Ascension Island’s marine ecosystem is relatively untouched, with an abundance of life. AIGCFD monitor the health of this environment by collecting important ecological data via abundance surveys, biological sample collection and the acoustic tagging of economically important species such as spiny lobster, rock hind grouper, and yellow spotted moray.

Analysis provides insight into population dynamics, growth rates, spawning cycles and maturity of these key species. This allows effective monitoring and management to ensure this important resource is here for years to come. AIGCFD work alongside UK agencies to monitor and manage the Ascension Island Marine Protected Area.

 

Reserve Wardens

Warden Team

The AIGCFD Reserve Wardens conserve the natural and cultural heritage of Ascension Island's protected areas. The wardens perform practical conservation tasks such as clearing paths and building infrastructure to enhance public enjoyment and accessibility while protecting the island's unique biodiversity.

The directorate maintain historical features found within the protected areas and carry out important scientific research on key species. The wardens promote community engagement with the national park and nature reserves, providing information and organising public events.

Biosecurity

Biosecurity

As an isolated island, one of the greatest threats to local biodiversity to the introduction of invasive non-native species (INNS). The majority of all recorded island extinctions list invasive species as the primary cause. The Conservation Department are working with partners locally and internationally to prevent, detect, control and eradicate invasive non-native species within the Ascension Island Territory. This is being done through the development of:

  • Import standards
  • Awareness and education program
  • Surveillance of imports and key freight storage areas
  • Development of control and eradication protocols

Social Media

To keep up to date with the AIG Conservation and Fisheries Directorate (AIGCFD) follow us on social media.

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Ahead of the annual Ascension frigatebird census, conservation staff have been trialling the use of a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) to count nesting frigatebirds on the Letterbox Nature Reserve. The ambition is to also survey nearby uninhabited Boatswainbird Island.

Before moving forward with this monitoring technique, the priority was to test how the birds reacted to this new technology. Special care was taken to select a drone which was the right size, shape and would provide the photographic clarity needed to perform the survey, all while minimising potential disturbance to the birds.

Once the images are taken, artificial intelligence will process and analyse the photographs to determine the number of nests. This is part of a new DARWIN+ project "A cross UKOT remote camera network to enhance marine predator conservation" in conjunction with the University of Oxford.

We are thrilled with the initial results and look forward to using this new technique in the coming weeks as the frigatebirds reach their peak incubation period. The results of the study will be ground-truthed by manual counts performed by AIG staff.

Watch this space for the results!

#smallislandBIGVISION #AscensionIsland #UAVSurveys
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Ahead of the annual Ascension frigatebird census, conservation staff have been trialling the use of a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) to count nesting frigatebirds on the Letterbox Nature Reserve. The ambition is to also survey nearby uninhabited Boatswainbird Island. 

Before moving forward with this monitoring technique, the priority was to test how the birds reacted to this new technology. Special care was taken to select a drone which was the right size, shape and would provide the photographic clarity needed to perform the survey, all while minimising potential disturbance to the birds. 

Once the images are taken, artificial intelligence will process and analyse the photographs to determine the number of nests. This is part of a new DARWIN+ project A cross UKOT remote camera network to enhance marine predator conservation in conjunction with the University of Oxford. 

We are thrilled with the initial results and look forward to using this new technique in the coming weeks as the frigatebirds reach their peak incubation period. The results of the study will be ground-truthed by manual counts performed by AIG staff. 

Watch this space for the results! 

#smallislandBIGVISION #AscensionIsland #UAVSurveys

Its that time again!

Come join the Green Mountain National Park Team this Sunday. We will be clearing the last of the vegetation around Dew Pond Restoration Site. An important area for our rare endemic plant species.

Meet 9:30 on Sunday the 2th October at Two boats sports track where transport will be given up the mountain (masks provided to wear in the vehicles).
As a special thank you, food will be provided at 12:30. No booking required.

See you there!
... See MoreSee Less

Its that time again!

Come join the Green Mountain National Park Team this Sunday. We will be clearing the last of the vegetation around Dew Pond Restoration Site. An important area for our rare endemic plant species. 

Meet 9:30 on Sunday the 2th October at Two boats sports track where transport will be given up the mountain (masks provided to wear in the vehicles). 
As a special thank you, food will be provided at 12:30. No booking required.

See you there!

Comment on Facebook

"Masks provided for in the vehicles"? Whats going on down there? Surely in that climate you'll suffocate yourselves?

This is the first ever live photograph of one of our most illusive island species - the Ascension scaly cricket! These are weird and unique bugs. Their entire bodies are covered in tiny iridescent scales like a fish! We have five species here which all belong to the endemic and fantastically-named genus Discophallus.

The scaly crickets were previously known from just a handful of individuals caught dead in insect traps in 1990. We have recently discovered them again on the north coast of Ascension, east of English Bay.

Photo by Adam Sharp
... See MoreSee Less

This is the first ever live photograph of one of our most illusive island species - the Ascension scaly cricket! These are weird and unique bugs. Their entire bodies are covered in tiny iridescent scales like a fish! We have five species here which all belong to the endemic and fantastically-named genus Discophallus.

The scaly crickets were previously known from just a handful of individuals caught dead in insect traps in 1990. We have recently discovered them again on the north coast of Ascension, east of English Bay.

Photo by Adam Sharp

Comment on Facebook

Love this!!! Bring us more of Ascension's amazing inverts!

This is amazing - Well done all of a brilliant find!

looks very much like the wets we have here in New Zealand I mean weta

You should have lived in BB1 dormitory in the 80’s…. The building was infested in crickets….

Interesting insects

Greg Nicholson

Amazing!

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