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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Happy World Wildlife Day 2021!

We love Ascension’s wildlife. From soaring seabirds to scuttling land crabs to the myriad of underwater wildlife, Ascension Island is full of amazing flora and fauna set against a unique backdrop.

This year the theme of World Wildlife Day is “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet”. Forests are hugely valuable to human communities across the globe as well as being home to 80% of all terrestrial wildlife.

Now forests may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you picture the white sands and volcanic rock of Ascension Island, especially given that every tree on the island is a non-native species. But atop Green Mountain is a lush cloud forest. Led by Joseph Hooker from 1843 onwards, plants and trees were shipped to the island for years as a measure to improve the environment and rainfall for those stationed on Ascension. This terraforming on Green Mountain’s peak resulted in an artificial cloud forest. Filled with a mish-mash of old and new world plants, this is perhaps one of the earliest examples of a complex ‘human-made ecosystem’ and has given ecologists plenty to discuss.

The introduction of many of these non-natives plants threatens our endemic plants – something that Joseph Hooker expressed regret for in his later years. But there are many positive impacts from this new forest too, for humans and wildlife. Some of those endangered endemic ferns have found new habitats in the canopy of the introduced trees. Fairy terns that once only nested on cliffs take to the branches of the large Eucalyps. Native Land crabs burrow amongst the roots of non-native trees, eating non-native vegetation.

And for the people of Ascension, the forest of Green Mountain provides a lush green setting that can be a haven and retreat for island residents, especially for those of us cooking in the lowland heat of Georgetown. Misty and an average 7°C cooler than the lowlands, these green spaces improve mental wellbeing. Humans find respite and relaxation, as well as the odd raspberry or banana. The forest was also crucial for earlier settlers on Ascension, with water catchment sites benefiting from increased rainfall on the mountain, and improved soil and climate from the forests allowing more productive farming.

Our forest may be human made, but it still has value to the island community and its wildlife.

To learn more about World Wildlife Day’s theme check out www.wildlifeday.org/

#WWD2021 #ForestPeoplePlanet #AscensionIsland
... See MoreSee Less

Happy World Wildlife Day 2021!

We love Ascension’s wildlife. From soaring seabirds to scuttling land crabs to the myriad of underwater wildlife, Ascension Island is full of amazing flora and fauna set against a unique backdrop.

This year the theme of World Wildlife Day is “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet”. Forests are hugely valuable to human communities across the globe as well as being home to 80% of all terrestrial wildlife. 

Now forests may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you picture the white sands and volcanic rock of Ascension Island, especially given that every tree on the island is a non-native species. But atop Green Mountain is a lush cloud forest. Led by Joseph Hooker from 1843 onwards, plants and trees were shipped to the island for years as a measure to improve the environment and rainfall for those stationed on Ascension. This terraforming on Green Mountain’s peak resulted in an artificial cloud forest. Filled with a mish-mash of old and new world plants, this is perhaps one of the earliest examples of a complex ‘human-made ecosystem’ and has given ecologists plenty to discuss.

The introduction of many of these non-natives plants threatens our endemic plants – something that Joseph Hooker expressed regret for in his later years. But there are many positive impacts from this new forest too, for humans and wildlife. Some of those endangered endemic ferns have found new habitats in the canopy of the introduced trees.  Fairy terns that once only nested on cliffs take to the branches of the large Eucalyps. Native Land crabs burrow amongst the roots of non-native trees, eating non-native vegetation. 

And for the people of Ascension, the forest of Green Mountain provides a lush green setting that can be a haven and retreat for island residents, especially for those of us cooking in the lowland heat of Georgetown. Misty and an average 7°C cooler than the lowlands, these green spaces improve mental wellbeing.  Humans find respite and relaxation, as well as the odd raspberry or banana. The forest was also crucial for earlier settlers on Ascension, with water catchment sites benefiting from increased rainfall on the mountain, and improved soil and climate from the forests allowing more productive farming.

Our forest may be human made, but it still has value to the island community and its wildlife.

To learn more about World Wildlife Day’s theme check out https://www.wildlifeday.org/  

#WWD2021 #ForestPeoplePlanet #AscensionIsland

Comment on Facebook

A fantastic place to study wildlife and I feel so lucky to have been a visitor and seen so much “once in a lifetime” moments above and below the water.

Green Mountain is getting greener!

It’s that time of year again. The charismatic Land Crab, (𝘫𝘰𝘩𝘯𝘨𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘢 𝘭𝘢𝘨𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘮𝘢), Ascensions largest native land animal are on the move to their spawning grounds!

To celebrate the start of the spawning season we will be filling your newsfeeds with crabby facts each day this week.

𝗖𝗿𝗮𝗯-𝘁𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗖𝗿𝗮𝗯 𝗳𝗮𝗰𝘁𝘀 𝟱 𝗼𝗳 𝟱:
Each spawning female can release 100,000 eggs into the ocean ( we kid-you-not) by twerking into the oncoming waves. This has led to many impromptu dance parties amongst the surveying staff. Out of these 100,000 eggs, only a tiny percentage will survive to adulthood. The eggs start orange but turn black as the eyes of the embryo develop. Once the eggs enter the water they hatch immediately into larvae and head out to sea for about 2 weeks. If the currents are right and they haven’t been eaten, the baby land crabs return to land as megalops. Shortly after making it to land they will moult and become first stage crabs where their life as a terrestrial animal begins.

Photo credit Sam Weber - Land Crabs preparing to spawn in the sea.
... See MoreSee Less

It’s that time of year again.  The charismatic Land Crab, (𝘫𝘰𝘩𝘯𝘨𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘢 𝘭𝘢𝘨𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘮𝘢), Ascensions largest native land animal are on the move to their spawning grounds!  

To celebrate the start of the spawning season we will be filling your newsfeeds with crabby facts each day this week.

𝗖𝗿𝗮𝗯-𝘁𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗖𝗿𝗮𝗯 𝗳𝗮𝗰𝘁𝘀 𝟱 𝗼𝗳 𝟱:
Each spawning female can release 100,000 eggs into the ocean ( we kid-you-not) by twerking into the oncoming waves. This has led to many impromptu dance parties amongst the surveying staff. Out of these 100,000 eggs, only a tiny percentage will survive to adulthood. The eggs start orange but turn black as the eyes of the embryo develop. Once the eggs enter the water they hatch immediately into larvae and head out to sea for about 2 weeks. If the currents are right and they haven’t been eaten, the baby land crabs return to land as megalops.  Shortly after making it to land they will moult and become first stage crabs where their life as a terrestrial animal begins.

Photo credit Sam Weber - Land Crabs preparing to spawn in the sea.

Comment on Facebook

Plate of crab sounds great right now

Graeme Anderson ❤️ 🦀

One crab says to the other 'Got any fags mate 'Only a nipper mate.

It’s that time of year again. The charismatic Land Crab, (𝘫𝘰𝘩𝘯𝘨𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘢 𝘭𝘢𝘨𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘮𝘢), Ascensions largest native land animal are on the move to their spawning grounds!

To celebrate the start of the spawning season we will be filling your newsfeeds with crabby facts each day this week.

𝗖𝗿𝗮𝗯-𝘁𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗖𝗿𝗮𝗯 𝗳𝗮𝗰𝘁𝘀 𝟰 𝗼𝗳 𝟱:
Unlike lotto numbers, land crab migrations can be accurately predicted. They spawn between January and April, a few days over each final quarter moon phase. At this time conditions are usually just right, with the tidal range at its least, the ocean at its warmest and rainfall more likely. Over the spawning season, thousands of crabs descend from Green Mountain, down to the eastern coastline, travelling mainly at night. A massive journey for such a small creature.

Photo credit Jonathan Holt - A female caring eggs with Green Mountain in the back ground
... See MoreSee Less

It’s that time of year again.  The charismatic Land Crab, (𝘫𝘰𝘩𝘯𝘨𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘢 𝘭𝘢𝘨𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘮𝘢), Ascensions largest native land animal are on the move to their spawning grounds!  

To celebrate the start of the spawning season we will be filling your newsfeeds with crabby facts each day this week.

𝗖𝗿𝗮𝗯-𝘁𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗖𝗿𝗮𝗯 𝗳𝗮𝗰𝘁𝘀 𝟰 𝗼𝗳 𝟱:
Unlike lotto numbers, land crab migrations can be accurately predicted. They spawn between January and April, a few days over each final quarter moon phase. At this time conditions are usually just right, with the tidal range at its least, the ocean at its warmest and rainfall more likely. Over the spawning season, thousands of crabs descend from Green Mountain, down to the eastern coastline, travelling mainly at night. A massive journey for such a small creature.

Photo credit Jonathan Holt - A female caring eggs with Green Mountain in the back ground

Comment on Facebook

Been there when it happens what a sight

How wonderfull nature is.... cannot wait to witness this.... thanks for the information....🥰🥰

Amazing sight that we was privileged to witness!

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