Tristan : Gough and Inaccessible Ramsar Wetlands Designation
Submitted by Tristan Times (Sarah Glass) 10.08.2009 (Current Article)
With funding received from the Overseas Territories Environment Programme in 2007, Tristan da Cunha prepared information sheets to allow the UK Government to designate the Gough and Inaccessible Island Nature Reserves (which together form a World Heritage Site) as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.
Photos (c) UK OVERSEAS TERRITORIES CONSERVATION FORUM
Designation of Tristan da Cunha’s first two Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance
With funding received from the Overseas Territories Environment Programme in 2007, Tristan da Cunha prepared information sheets to allow the UK Government to designate the Gough and Inaccessible Island Nature Reserves (which together form a World Heritage Site) as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. The initiative follows the sites’ inclusion in UKOTCF’s 2005 Review of existing and potential Ramsar sites in UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies (http://www.ukotcf.org/pubs /ramsarReview. htm), commissioned by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
The texts were prepared by John Cooper, Honorary Tristan da Cunha Conservation Officer, under contract to the Tristan Agriculture and Natural Resources Department, and with continuing support from UKOTCF. The sites include all the terrestrial parts of the islands and their surrounding seas out to the 12-nautical mile limit of territorial waters.
Gough Island is one of the largest relatively unmodified cool temperate island ecosystems in the southern hemisphere. The island has been described as “a strong contender for the title of the most important seabird colony in the world.” A total of 22 species of birds (several endemic to the island group) and two species of seals breed there, some in very large numbers. The House Mouse Mus musculus is the only introduced mammal. The threatened birds Gough Bunting and Gough Moorhen are endemic (although the latter has been introduced to the main island of Tristan da Cunha). The threatened seabirds Tristan Albatross and Atlantic Petrel are practically endemic, with only relict populations remaining on the other Tristan islands.
Twenty-four species of sea and land birds breed on Inaccessible Island. There are no introduced mammals but there are a number of species of introduced invertebrates and plants.
Three threatened avian species are endemic to the island: Spectacled Petrel, Inaccessible Rail and Inaccessible Bunting. Additionally, the Tristan Thrush is a near-threatened endemic subspecies.
The Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, which nests on both islands, is endemic to the Tristan Group. Numbers of plants and invertebrates are either endemic to one of the islands, or to the island group.
The illusive and rare Inaccessible Island Rail
The deep marine ecoystems of both islands are relatively little known. Depths shallower than 40 m support a variety of intertidal and subtidal habitats dominated by seaweed and kelp beds and a range of invertebrates including a commercially-exploited population of Tristan Rock Lobster Jasus tristani, demersal and pelagic fish, and (from time to time) at least nine species of cetaceans. Important Ramsar wetland types on the two islands include non-forested peatlands (home to the Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena), permanent freshwater pools, permanent streams, marine subtidal aquatic beds and rocky marine shores.
The sites are due for designation in October 2008, before the Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention, as Forum News goes to press.
The Field Guide to the Animals and Plants of Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island, edited by Peter Ryan, was published in 2007 by Pisces Publications. It is available (for about £13) from booksellers.
John Cooper, CORE Initiatives, Rondebosch, South Africa; John. Cooper@uct.ac.za
Those wishing to know more about the wildlife of Tristan da Cunha will wish to note two fairly new publications:
The Natural History of Tristan da Cunha, by Paul Tyler and Alison Rothwell, was published in 2006 using funding secured by UKOTCF. It was primarily intended to make available for teaching in the local school information gained in recent studies on the island group. It can be downloaded from the Publications section on the Forum’s website (www.ukotcf.org).