Saving the cloud forest: Funding announcement will restore ‘most precious wildlife site on UK soil’ - RSPB

New funding from the UK government will help save critically endangered, unique wildlife and fresh water supplies on the UK Overseas Territory of St Helena, one of the most remote inhabited islands on Earth

St Helena’s ancient cloud forest is the most important site for wildlife on British soil, with at least 250 species found nowhere else on the planet, including a woodlouse that glows in the dark

As well as holding one-sixth of the UK’s unique wildlife, these mist-shrouded mountain peaks provide most of the drought-prone island’s fresh water

Today the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office has announced it will help restore one of the most precious sites for wildlife on UK soil, St Helena’s cloud forest, protecting the rare species that depend upon it from disappearing forever.

St Helena is a UK Overseas Territory that rises out of the south Atlantic, 2,000km off the coast of West Africa. Clouds cloak the mountains in a protective blanket, creating a unique habitat for species that don’t exist anywhere else in the world – there are daisies which have evolved into large trees, blushing snails, and woodlice that glow under UV light.

Cloud forests are found in tropical mountainous regions where the trees are constantly surrounded by fog. They cover less than 0.4% of the world’s land area but are home to an estimated 15% of all species. Over the last 40 years cloud forests have decreased almost 20%.

St Helena’s cloud forest has declined from an estimated 600 hectares before humans’ arrival to just 16 hectares today. The area is protected within the ‘Peaks National Park’, but funding was needed to prevent the remaining fragments being lost forever. They are home to over half of the unique species that live on the island, but many have already been lost, such as the St Helena olive tree which went extinct in 2003, making it the most recent extinction on UK soil.

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Posted On: 05/08/2021

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