Efforts to boost biodiversity recovery in the UK Overseas Territories have been bolstered by the British government with large-scale projects funded for the first time to tackle nature loss.
The UK Overseas Territories, including the Falkland Islands and Montserrat, are some of the most nature-rich and bio-diverse areas in the world. Thick forests, shimmering oceans and vast grasslands thrive with wildlife, many of which are under threat from climate change and habitat loss.
The new Darwin Plus Strategic Fund will support projects up to £3 million over the next three years to strengthen species and habitat recovery in the Overseas Territories.
The funding will be awarded to projects in the UK Overseas Territories which are designed to tackle invasive species, improve internationally important habitats such as cloud forests and coral reefs, and expand monitoring of climate change to improve resilience.
UK Environment Minister Trudy Harrison said: “From dense rainforests to marshlands which capture carbon, our Overseas Territories are full of unique habitats and diverse wildlife which must be protected for future generations.
“The new grant scheme announced today is a flagship commitment which will support transformative improvements in biodiversity, halt nature-loss and build climate resilience.”
Howard Nelson, Chair of Darwin Plus Advisory Group, said: “Every annual call for projects for Darwin Plus is important, as it provides a way to fund important efforts to conserve the unique biodiversity of the territories.
“The addition of the Darwin Plus Strategic Fund enables the stakeholders from the Overseas Territories with an opportunity to scale up and accelerate actions that work for conservation, and bring positive change for biodiversity across these amazing places. We are very excited to see the proposals and the new opportunities this will create for conservation action.”
Under the Environmental Improvement Plan, the government reiterated the commitment to bolster support for biodiversity in the Overseas Territories. Today’s announcement delivers on this pledge and will help achieve the target to halt biodiversity decline by 2030 and improve species abundance by 10% by 2042.
In addition to opening of the new Darwin Plus Strategic Fund, existing funding allocated through Darwin Plus Local will support over 40 projects including:
• Support for Bermuda’s Living Reef foundation which preserves and restores coral reefs by rearing young corals in its land-based hatchery and planting them on the reef habitat. The funding will support increased monitoring, the use of 3D computer modeling infrastructure and train four scientists to enhance coastal protections
• Biodiversity surveys in Antarctica to better understand and implement new biodiversity protection measures around the Western Antarctic Peninsula and increase protection for flora and fauna sites. The grant will support the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust to create a new Environmental Management Plan to address climate adaptation
• The protection and hand-pollination of endemic ghost orchids in the Cayman Islands to address the threat of extinction. The funding will support partners who raise seedlings in nutrient-rich media to combat pollination limitations observed in natural populations
Since 2012, the Darwin Plus program has invested over £45 million in over 240 biodiversity and conservation projects in the UKOTs. For further information on Darwin Plus programs and the full list of projects visit: https://darwinplus.org.uk/
£10 million has been made available each year until 2025 for the Darwin Plus Program. The existing funding schemes include:
• Darwin Plus: the original funding offer which enters its twelfth consecutive year and continues to support conservation projects costed between £100,000 and £1 million
• Darwin Plus Fellowships Fund: which continues to support nationals of the UK Overseas Territories better understand the causes and impacts of biodiversity loss, and enhance protections for the natural environment
• Darwin Plus Local Fund: aimed at small-scale environmental projects, this fund will build capacity in-territory and contribute to local economies. Launched in January 2023, this scheme remains open to individuals and organizations, for projects up to a maximum of £50,000
• Darwin Plus Main Fund supports projects across the 14 UK Overseas Territories (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.
• Primary responsibility for biodiversity conservation and wider environmental management in the UK Overseas Territories has been devolved to the OT governments, who, with the support of the UK government, are responsible for developing appropriate, applicable, and affordable environmental policies, legislation and standards