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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🌊 World Sea Turtle Day - June 16th 🌊

Happy world sea turtle day! Three species of turtle are found in Ascension’s waters, including hawksbill, leatherback and green turtles. The green turtle nesting population is the largest in the South Atlantic Ocean and are the only species to nest on Ascension. The nesting season is almost over but hatchlings are emerging from nests every night.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the 2021 nesting season:
🏝 During the peak, there were 650 tracks and 151 nests in one night on Long Beach.
⛔️A total of 215 adult female green turtles found stranded along the coast were assisted back into the water.
🌡60 temperature loggers were deployed into nests on Long Beach, Pan Am and North East.
👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 83 members of the public joined a tour to have a close encounter with nesting green turtles.

Click on the photographs to learn more about how AIG Conservation and Fisheries Directorate works to conserve green turtles.
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🌊 World Sea Turtle Day - June 16th 🌊

Happy world sea turtle day! Three species of turtle are found in Ascension’s waters, including hawksbill, leatherback and green turtles. The green turtle nesting population is the largest in the South Atlantic Ocean and are the only species to nest on Ascension. The nesting season is almost over but hatchlings are emerging from nests every night.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the 2021 nesting season:
🏝 During the peak, there were 650 tracks and 151 nests in one night on Long Beach.
⛔️A total of 215 adult female green turtles found stranded along the coast were assisted back into the water.
🌡60 temperature loggers were deployed into nests on Long Beach, Pan Am and North East.
👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 83 members of the public joined a tour to have a close encounter with nesting green turtles.

Click on the photographs to learn more about how AIG Conservation and Fisheries Directorate works to conserve green turtles.

Comment on Facebook

So privileged to have been here to see these beautiful Turtles 🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢👌🧚‍♂️

Hi all, keep up the great work down there. Over many years I used to organise some of the RAF diving expeds in Asi. Quite often we would assist you guys in capturing Hawksbill turtles for tagging, DNA analysis etc. Is there anyway to get access to the data from these tag and release schemes ? It would be amazing to track the movements of some of the turtles.

English Bay in 2009

Nice one chris

Magic x

I had the privilege of seeing this natural event on a number of occasions in the mid 80s (from a safe distance, laid on the beach and very quiet). Absolutely fantastic

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Another plant census completed!

Twice a year our plant team trek around the island surveying our most endangered species to inform our conservation work. Here we have an animated representation of our results from the last eight years for the endemic, critically endangered Ascension spurge Euphorbia origanoides.

You’ll notice that the population is very changeable. The spurge relies on seed banks in the soil, which stay dormant in dry years and wait for the ideal conditions to grow. You can see how in 2020, most populations grew massively after a big flash flood watered the seed banks in March. Meanwhile, between 2016 and 2020, very few seeds came up and the total population dwindled to below 1000 plants. We were very grateful for the 2020 rains!

Although rain is very important to the spurge in its desert-like habitat, our census results don’t match up to rainfall measurements as closely as we expected. So this year, with the help of a grant from the UK Government’s Darwin Plus Fund, the Conservation and Fisheries Directorate aim to study more closely how the climate affects spurge populations and what other factors could be causing population decline. We will use our results to predict how climate change may affect the spurge and to fine-tune our conservation management practices. Our goal is then to investigate where the spurge should grow best on the island in the future and establish plants in these locations.

We’ll keep you posted on what we find out.
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To celebrate #VolunteerWeek we would like to say a huge thank you to all our fantastic volunteers! Last year alone the Conservation and Fisheries directorate received 1398 hours of volunteer help. From clearing Nature Reserves of invasive species to monitoring and rescuing our incredible wildlife. We appreciate every bit of help we get. THANK YOU! #smallislandBIGVISION ... See MoreSee Less

To celebrate #volunteerweek we would like to say a huge thank you to all our fantastic volunteers!  Last year alone the Conservation and Fisheries directorate received 1398 hours of volunteer help.  From clearing Nature Reserves of invasive species to monitoring and rescuing our incredible wildlife. We appreciate every bit of help we get.  THANK YOU! #smallislandBIGVISION
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