This week marks 15 years since Green Mountain became Ascension’s first, and to date only, National Park. Designated under the National Protected Areas Ordinance the park was opened on 25 June 2005. The park covers 10.2km2 of Green Mountain, encompassing the peak, a number of walks and all manner of wildlife.
Enjoyed by those living on Ascension ever since, here are five reasons to celebrate what makes this space so important.
1. A great place to explore and connect with nature
With its vast network of paths, endless viewpoints, camping spots, picnic areas, historic features and interesting wildlife and plants, it’s hard to get bored on Green Mountain. Outdoor space has long been known to help improve health and happiness, with research showing that people who spend more time in green space have better general well-being. The mountain provides a place to connect with nature, reducing stress and increasing happiness, which benefits all visitors’ mental health. It’s also a great place to escape Ascension’s hot climate!
2. A place to enjoy watching the iconic land crabs
The island’s charismatic land crabs, Johngarthia lagostoma, are among Green Mountain’s most popular residents. They can be yellow, purple, orange or anything in between. For most of the day, land crabs shelter in burrows; coming out after rains or in the cool of the night. Before the greening of the mountain, it is likely they had a more carnivorous diet of seabird chicks and insects. Yet the introduction of non-native vegetation and the historic decline of seabirds changed the crabs’ feeding habits to become largely plant-based. Green Mountain’s mild, damp climate and plentiful food supply still makes it the perfect home for these captivating animals.
3. Home to some very special plants
Green Mountain is home to six of Ascension’s seven surviving endemic plants. The smallest, moss fern Stenogrammitis ascensionensis, evolved to grow on damp, mossy, windswept rocks and cinder banks around the mountaintop. This habitat changed radically with the introduction of non-native plants 150 years ago. Thick cloud forests, dense thickets of invasive ginger and more now smother most of the upper slopes. Yet remarkably, moss fern has adapted to survive on the new niche of mossy branches and bamboo trunks. AIG are working to maintain and connect areas of forest that the moss fern can colonise whilst removing the species it cannot coexist with. It is hoped Green Mountain will continue to support this unique, resilient fern long into the future.
4. A unique and rich history
With a natural spring and a more inhabitable climate, it’s no surprise that the first settlers on Ascension Island chose Green Mountain as a base. This has resulted in some of the earliest structures and signs of human activity being found within Green Mountain National Park. There are cave houses carved into the mountainside, farmhouses and marine barracks dating back to the early 1800s, the large water catchment, the extensive path network and an artificial cloud forest; Green Mountain has a wealth of historic features for everyone to enjoy.
5. A one of a kind artificial cloud forest
Prior to human settlement, the native ecosystems on Ascension were at a relatively early stage of development and while some people see Green Mountain as a great ecological terraforming experiment, others see it as a man-made biological invasion that has degraded a previously pristine island environment. Whether it’s the invertebrates of which much still remains unknown, the inquisitive white tern nesting in the trees and cliff edges or the plants and bryophytes found nowhere else in the world; whichever way you look at it there is still a wealth of unique and interesting species to enjoy. The Conservation and Fisheries Directorate team is working to find a balance between Green Mountain’s native and endemic flora, the introduced species that are beneficial and those that are just invasive. If members of the public would like to find out more about Green Mountain National Park they can visit the Green Mountain section of the website or are welcome to come to the Conservation Centre in Georgetown.