St Helena : LOST AND FOUND ON ST HELENA
Submitted by Saint Helena Herald (Public Relations Information Office) 07.07.2013 (Article Archived on 04.08.2013)
St Helena is a small Island, eleven miles by seven in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.
AND FOUND ON ST HELENA
St Helena is a small
Island, eleven miles by seven in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.
Although small it is still possible to lose things. Just occasionally, however,
they turn up again. The 3mm long leaf hopper 'Chlorita' edithae was
described from eight specimens collected by Vernon Wollaston during his visit
to the island in 1875 and it hasn't been seen since – until now. A photograph
On Bank Holiday 1 April 2013,
while exploring tiny fragments of remaining natural vegetation above Wranghams
on the high central ridge of the Island, Lourens Malan [Terrestrial
Conservation Officer in the Environment Management Division (EMD) of the St
Helena Government] noticed a few brightly-coloured leaf hoppers. Quickly
grabbing his camera he managed to get several photographs of them. He later
showed these to David Pryce (Invertebrate Conservation Co-ordinator at the St
Helena National Trust) who nearly fell off his chair - it hadn't been seen for
This major discovery is all the
more important as the hopper was found on the endangered endemic Whitewood Tree
(Petrobium arboreum) of which there were only 80 surviving in 1995.
Active conservation work on the Island has helped safeguard this species for
the immediate future.
Most of the new stock has been
grown from seedlings collected from the wild and grown on in more accessible
areas where they could be tended for and monitored. As the plants collected
were small it is less likely that they will have much of their associated fauna
on them. Many of these insects have very poor dispersal abilities, further
restricting their ability to form new colonies. Discoveries like this mean that
steps can be taken to conserve these species as well as their plant hosts.
The isolated island of three
Whitewood Trees where the hopper was found is in a sea of invasive New Zealand
Flax (Phormium tenax). This shows how rare invertebrates can persist for
long periods in very low populations. It is hoped that future work by the
National Trust and the Environment Management Division will identify more of
these isolated pockets. Their health will be assessed by looking at the
diversity of their invertebrate populations and hopefully more discoveries (and
rediscoveries) will be made.
Tara Pelembe, Head of the
Environment Management Division said:
“We are very excited about
this find. Our rarest plants and animals exist in tiny pockets of native
habitats. These unique habitats need to be safeguarded. EMD is working with a
range of partners and stakeholders to ‘effectively manage the Island’s
environment’ - which is a national goal. We are very pleased to be working in
partnership with the National Trust and Buglife on a much-needed Darwin
invertebrate project which will help us to better understand the invertebrate
species and habitats that exist on this unique Island.”