Threatened species across the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) are set to benefit from £6.4 million in government funding announced on Monday 23 May. Green turtles and the West Indian whistling duck are just some of the species that will be boosted by a share of the Darwin Plus Initiative. Likewise Falklands' New Island Nature Reserve and Peatlands.
A total of 20 environmental recovery projects will be supported to deliver marine conservation, research into threatened species, and improve resilience to climate change.
The UK Overseas Territories are unique and globally significant nature hotspots. Made up of thousands of small islands, vast oceans and dense rainforests, these areas are thriving with unique wildlife and contain 94% of the UK’s biodiversity.
Since 2012, the government has contributed more than £38 million towards 180 projects in the UK Overseas Territories through Darwin Plus, and has committed £30 million over the next three years to support even more environmental projects in these areas.
Funding through Darwin Plus and the Darwin initiative will help to deliver the commitments set out in the Environment Act to halt and reverse the decline of biodiversity and improve species abundance by 10% by 2042.
Jonathan Hall, Head of UK Overseas Territories at RSPB, said: This is some of the most cost-effective conservation funding there is. We’re delighted Defra has increased this vital Darwin Plus fund, which is helping Territory conservationists deliver incredible work to protect vast marine reserves, fragile albatross islands and key carbon-rich habitats such as mangroves.
Habitats and projects set to benefit from the funding include:
• A cross-UKOT camera network to enhance marine predator conservation across the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Polar regions. Drones and timelapse cameras will be used to monitor and gather information on green turtles, endemic frigate birds and masked boobies in the Ascension islands, data which is not currently available and will create effective management plans to protect these species
• Investment to improve environmental protections for the East Caicos wilderness area. The funding will support the creation of a locally owned resource management plan to safeguard against inappropriate development on the uninhabited island to protect nesting turtles, plant species unique to those islands, and native birds, such as the West Indian whistling duck
• A project to turn the tide on plastic pollution in Ascension and St Helena. Researchers will explore the drivers of plastic pollution and trial innovative solutions to reduce single-use plastic and improve waste management efficiency
• Action to improve the New Island National Nature Reserve in the Falkland Islands and protect the sites’ world-renowned seabird colonies from invasive mammals and conserve its carbon-rich peatlands.
Communities in these areas are reliant on the natural environment for their economic welfare and security. This funding injection will also help provide local people with the skills and tools to manage the natural world and encourage tourism in a sustainable way.
Darwin Plus (also known as the Overseas Territories Environment and Climate Fund) is a competitive UK government grants scheme which is part of the Biodiversity Challenge Fund (BCF) that provides funding for environmental projects in UKOTs.
Darwin Plus supports projects across all 14 UKOTs which are: Anguilla; Bermuda; British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory; The British Virgin Islands; The Cayman Islands; The Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; The Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie & Oeno Islands; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Sovereign Base Areas, Akrotiri and Dhekelia (Cyprus); and, The Turks & Caicos Islands.