11 May 2023
The International Day of Plant Health is marked worldwide every year on 12 May. It is marked to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect biodiversity and the environment, and boost economic development.
It provides a timely reminder of why plant health is vital for nature around the world, including on St Helena. The endemic trees of St Helena are a unique and irreplaceable component of St Helena’s biodiversity and in turn support a huge number of endemic invertebrates. Unfortunately, these endemic trees are under threat from habitat loss, climate change and plant diseases.
In November 2022 it was announced that a number of endemic trees within the Peaks National Park had been discovered to be dying as a result of multiple plant pathogens, including a Phytophthora water mould. These pathogens were identified as part of the ongoing Darwin Plus funded project ‘Managing the pathogens threatening St Helena’s biodiversity and food security’.
Following further research and monitoring, in April 2023 access to some areas of the Peaks National Park was prohibited under powers granted by an amendment to the Environmental Protection Ordinance 2016. As an initial step, access to specific areas of the Peaks National Park will be prohibited until the end of December 2023. Access is prohibited to help prevent the further spread of a range of plant pathogens within the Peaks National Park whilst authorities work to improve their understanding of the issue.
A large scale work programme is ongoing to identify the individual plant pathogens present on the Peaks and assess their impacts on endemic trees. This work includes testing of individual plants for the presence of pathogens, testing soil and water samples to figure out how the pathogens might be spreading, and laboratory analysis of plant samples to confirm the scientific identification of the pathogens present.
So far, the public response to the access restrictions covering parts of the Peaks National Park has been overwhelmingly positive and it is clear that the St Helena public appreciates and values the island’s unique biodiversity. We would like to take this opportunity to thank locals and visitors for helping to safeguard the Island’s precious habitats and endemics, and we ask that everyone continues to play their part in trying to achieve this aim.
More information on the International Day of Plant Health 2023 can be found online via www.fao.org/plant-health-day.
#StHelena #Biodiversity #Pathogens #IDPH #InternationalDayOfPlantHealth