Securing the Future of St Helena's Endemic Invertebrates by Amy-Jayne Dutton
The St Helena Darwin Plus funded invertebrate project finished at the end of June 2018. Using on-island expertise the project has identified thousands specimens, collecting invertebrate from 24 malaise traps in different habitat types across the island and covering 11 trapping periods from January 2017 to October 2017. A total of 339 species have been identified, including 113 endemic to St Helena and many more are waiting specialist identification. Analysis of the collected invertebrate data will be able to answer a range of conservation research questions. Our initial results show that some species are much more widespread than originally thought, also some endemics have been found in non-native habitats and some species vary substantially in abundance throughout the year. Additionally a summary of the knowledge for the unusual burrowing spider ‘Prosperous Bay Plain Mole Spider’ was written. This is thought to be in the Lycosidae family but is yet to be formally described. More of St Helena’s endemic invertebrate species are due to be published on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species next month. The St Helena National Trust retains a small local team of invertebrate experts, to help raise awareness of the wealth of endemic invertebrates found on such a small island. An Invertebrate Field Guide for the island is also in progress; and an Invertebrate Education Pack will be distributed shortly ensuring that future learners can be enthused about invertebrates and gain a greater understanding of St Helena's unique biodiversity.
Butterfly Conservation Europe Meeting on Madeira by Martin Wiemers
Madeira is home to 15 butterfly species, 4 of which are endemic. Of these endemics, one species, the Madeiran Large White Pieris wollastoni has already become extinct in the 1980s (the only European butterfly known to have become extinct in historical times) and two others are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Such a high level of endangerment is extraordinary in Europe and so Butterfly Conservation Europe (BCE, http://www.bc-europe.eu/) accepted an invitation from its Madeiran partner, and MAIISG member, Sérgio Teixeira to hold a board meeting on the island in order to assess the local conservation problems. Additionally to the Board Meeting which was held in Funchal on 30 September 2018, two weeks of joint field work investigated the situation of Madeira’s butterflies. One focus species was the endangered Madeiran Speckled Wood Pararge xiphia, probably the most ancient Madeiran butterfly species with an estimated age of 5.6 million years. It used to be widespread and common across the island at low to medium altitudes, even in disturbed habitats. However, it has been declining strongly in recent decades after the introduction of its sister species, the Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria from the African continent during the 1960s. The BCE team consisted of 11 butterfly experts plus two Speckled Wood specialists from Louvain University in Belgium. Initial fieldwork results indicate that the invasive species is now widespread across the island and often is common than its endemic relative, especially in disturbed coastal habitats, e.g. Eucalyptus plantations. Here, the invader has become extremely common, whereas the endemic has disappeared or become very rare. Only few areas in the most remote and undisturbed laurel forests in the centre of the island have not been invaded, yet. More detailed studies to investigate the impact of the invasive Speckled Wood on its endemic relative are planned for the future and BCE will support the extension of butterfly monitoring on Madeira, initiated by Sérgio Teixeira. Only a few individuals of the other endangered endemic, the Madeiran Brimstone Gonepteryx maderensis, were seen. The rarity of this species seems to be due to the apparent scarcity of its larval hostplant, which is restricted to laurel forests and grows in very low numbers (estimated less than 5000 individuals). Therefore the BCE board recommended measures to increase the density of the hostplant. Most importantly, reforestation plans (e.g. for Funchal Ecological Park, which was destroyed by fire in 2016) should include this species. It is hoped that this meeting has increased the awareness for the specific conservation issues of Oceanic islands in general and the Macaronesian islands in particular, leading to more concerted efforts to preserve the butterflies and other wildlife in this European hotspot of endemism.
Eight Lazarus species rediscovered on Madeira, Dinarte Teixeira
Between 2008-2018 Dinarte Teixeira and Isamberto Silva implemented systematic inventory and monitoring focused on the terrestrial molluscs fauna on the islands of Madeira archipelago. As a result, eight Lazarus species were rediscovered. The vast majority of which have been unseen for more than one hundred years! These species were collected on Porto Santo islets (1) and Desertas islands (7) and belong to the genus Discula (1), Serratorotula (1), Actinella (2), Atlantica (1), Geomitra (2), Craspedopoma (1). For all of these taxa, new populations were identified, their distribution data updated; and a conservation plan developed and implemented. Moreover, all the Lazarus species were assessed as part of the European Red List for the Terrestrial Molluscs project (2017) by the MAIISG members D. Teixeira, R.A.D. Cameron and K. Groh and the IUCN Molluscs specialist chair M. Seddon.
EU LIFE projects conserving threatened molluscs in Madeira by Dinarte Teixeira
A series of EU LIFE Projects on Madeira have been an excellent conservation tool for the Habitats Directive species occurring on the archipelago, namely the invertebrates. Between2010-2018, 7 out of 15 Directive listed terrestrial molluscs were subject to a specific conservation and monitoring actions under 3 separate LIFE projects. New populations were identified and distributions updated, and additionally a conservation plan was drawn up. The projects have allowed a medium-term monitoring program to be implemented and this is currently underway in three intervention areas. Moreover, all these species were assessed as part of the European Red List of the Terrestrial Molluscs project (2017). The monitoring program also inventoried 147 other molluscs and 20 new records were made for the three areas. Excitingly two new taxa were identified for science, one new species and one subspecies of the genus Discula, for the island of Deserta Grande (Ilhas Desertas, Teixeira et al. (subm.)). All this work was coordinated by D. Teixeira and I. Silva and with collaboration from members of MAIISG: R. Cameron (U. Sheffield), K. Groh and C. Abreu, in addition to the external collaboration of B. Pokryszko (U. Wroclaw, Poland).
New paper on the invertebrates of St Helena by Alan Grey
The first comprehensive assessment of the status of the invertebrate fauna of St Helena has just been published in Biodiversity and Conservation, see: https://rdcu.be/9WUr The paper represents the first major review of St Helena’s invertebrate fauna since the Belgian Expeditions in the 1960s and 70s. Data was compiled from the most recent invertebrate projects on St Helena, including several projects funded by The Darwin Initiative. St Helena has a globally important invertebrate fauna with a high level of endemism of 460 species (equal to 96% of all native species). The isolation of St Helena has led to interesting evolutionary radiations, including the largest radiation of Tineidae known in any island or group with at least 29 endemic species of Opogona (Hieroxestinae) that have characters unknown in other species belonging to this genus. However, the total invertebrate species richness now comprises many introduced species (664), with 93 species in 24 orders that are entirely novel to St Helena. Worryingly, the paper also highlights that St Helena has had a large number of probable island wide extinction events; 30 insects, and 19 molluscs, and the threat of further extinctions remains very high. The analysis also highlights knowledge gaps and invertebrate conservation that is still needed; including taxonomy, ecology, long term monitoring and invasive species control that can reduce extinction risk. A particular heartening success story has been the number of invertebrate public participation events that have reached a broad range of people on St Helena’s, long may it continue! Ultimately, the paper represents a line in the sand for the conservation of invertebrate fauna on St Helena against which future progress will be measured
Butterfly Monitoring in Tenerife, Yeray Monasterio
The Cabildo de Tenerife, with the scientific coordination of ZERYNTHIA Association, has run a ‘citizen science’ butterfly monitoring program for the Canary Islands since 2017. This is the first monitoring program for butterflies for the Canaries. The program has a total of 20 volunteers (both citizens and rangers) involved. The program started with 17 transects and now has 22 locations across the northern part of the island. In one year volunteers collected 2488 records for 26 of the 28 butterfly species present on the island. These records have provided information on approximately 92% of the island’s species, most of which are endemic to the Canary Islands or endemic to the Macaronesia Islands. One migrant species Catopsilia florella, is monitored using a different methodology, where counting eggs and larvae on their food plant and this is only present in gardens. This long-term project is only possible due to the generous and invaluable help of its volunteers
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