|Location||St Helena (to UK), Ascension Island|
|Central coordinates||14o 22.00' West 7o 57.00' South|
|IBA criteria||A1, A4i, A4ii, A4iii|
|Altitude||0 - 859m|
|Year of IBA assessment||2001|
Ornithological information See Box for key species. At least 30 bird taxa are known. There are 11 resident seabird species, Oceanodroma castro, Phaethon aethereus, P. lepturus, Sula dactylatra, S. sula, S. leucogaster, Fregata aquila, Sterna fuscata, Anous stolidus, A. minutus and Gygis alba. Of these, O. castro and F. aquila now breed only on Boatswainbird Island (SH002), but the latter occurs regularly on the main island and both are expected to return as breeders once feral cats are eradicated. In addition, Puffinus lherminieri is thought to have once bred. The main colonies of S. fuscata, by far the most numerous breeding species, are in the south-west of the island, and occupied 9.14 ha in 1997.Although now deserted, many former seabird breeding sites are likely to be reoccupied following the removal of cats. Already, successful recolonization attempts by Sula dactylatra have been noted, e.g. 20 pairs with eggs and chicks at Letterbox in October 1996, and a single pair on a hill at Georgetown from 1993. Both Phaethon aethereus and P. lepturus nest on cliffs opposite Boatswainbird Island and along the south-eastern coast. Anous minutus breeds at Spire Beach, Letterbox, South-east Bay and Cocoanut Bay, while Gygis alba breeds on cliffs inland at Green Mountain and Weatherpost, as well as at South-east Head and opposite Boatswainbird Island. The stacks are important for Anous stolidus (500 pairs) which does not breed on Boatswainbird Island, and also Sula leucogaster and A. minutus.There are five resident landbirds, all introduced; Francolinus afer (introduced 1851), Acridotheres tristis (introduced 1879 and 1880), Passer domesticus (introduced 1985 onwards, Georgetown only), Estrilda astrild (introduced 1860) and Serinus flaviventris (introduced 1890). There are also records of non-breeding visitors and vagrants with fewer than five records. The former include Bubulcus ibis, Gallinula chloropus, Arenaria interpres, Apus apus, Hirundo rustica, and Delichon urbica. In the fossil record, two species are known, an extinct night heron Nycticorax nov. sp. and the extinct flightless rail Atlantisia elpenor.
Site description The site comprises the whole of Ascension Island and the 14 inshore stacks, as well as the marine habitat out to three nautical miles, and is described in the ‘General introduction’.
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus||breeding||1959||55 breeding pairs||-||A4ii||Least Concern|
|Ascension Frigatebird Fregata aquila||breeding||-||present [units unknown]||-||A1||Vulnerable|
|Sooty Tern Sterna fuscata||breeding||1997||194,000 breeding pairs||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Black Noddy Anous minutus||breeding||1990||5,000 breeding pairs||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|A4iii Species group - waterbirds||breeding||-||-||unknown||A4iii|
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
|nature conservation and research||-|
Other biodiversity The beaches of Ascension are important breeding grounds for turtles, Chelonia mydas (EN), protected locally since 1926. Hatchlings are taken by feral cats. There is a long list of invertebrates, including two endemic pseudoscorpions Apocheiridium cavicola and Allowithius ascensionis. Yellow and purple land-crabs Gecarcinus lagostoma occur throughout the main island, returning to the sea to breed, laying in shell-sand or soft ash. A shrimp Procaris ascensionis, found in coastal rock pools, is endemic.
Management considerations The management plan for the island includes the recommendation that the UK Government designate the whole island (i.e. covering SH001 and SH002) a ‘Protected Natural Area’. Apart from the proposed eradication of cats and rats, the plan provides for a substantial programme of conservation education, maintenance of strict and consistent control of access to seabird and turtle breeding sites, a strict control of refuse disposal, and vigilance regarding further alien introductions. Funding by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was announced on 26 March 2001 to support a two-year project by the Ascension Island Government and the RSPB to restore the seabird breeding colonies, including measures to remove the feral cats and reduce the spread of invasive plants like the Mexican thorn that provides food and cover for rats. Other threats include disturbance to breeding colonies of Sterna fuscata, hence controls on vehicular access, and accidental hooking of seabirds by sports fishermen. Significant quantities of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in Sterna fuscata are indicated to have come from squid or fish caught within the foraging range of the IBA. By the 1960s, Japanese longline fishing had spread throughout the Atlantic, with a fleet of up to 50 boats operating under licence in the EFZ from 1988. The threat of over-exploitation of fish stocks, as a result of longline, purse-seine and other forms of fishing in the area, has important implications for seabirds. The airport in the south-west is near the principal breeding sites of Sterna fuscata, but air-strikes are considered unlikely as disturbed birds fly low as they move out to sea.
References Allan (1962), Ashmole (1962, 1963a, b), Ashmole and Ashmole (1997, 2000), Ashmole, Ashmole and Simmons (1994), Bell and Ashmole (1995), Blair (1989), Chapin (1954), Cronk (2000), Dorward (1962a, b, 1963), Dorward and Ashmole (1963), Duffey (1964), Hughes (1991, 1992a, b, 1994, 1997), Hughes et al. (1994), Nash et al. (1991, 1992), Olson (1973, 1977), Osborn (1994), Packer (1983), Ratcliffe (1997), Ratcliffe and Roberts (1997, 1998), Rowlands (1992), Simmons (1967, 1968, 1970, 1990), Stonehouse (1960, 1962a, b), Stonehouse and Stonehouse (1963), Walmsley (1991, 1992, 1994).
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2013) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ascension Island: mainland and stacks. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/05/2013
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