Ascension : Conservation Weekly
Submitted by The Islander (Conservation Office) 17.02.2011 (Article Archived on 03.03.2011)
Last week Dr Frithjof Kuepper from the Scottish Association for Marine Science in Oban, Scotland, visited Ascension on his way back to the UK from the Falklands.
Dr Frithjof Kuepper visits Ascension
Last week Dr Frithjof Kuepper from the Scottish Association for Marine Science in Oban, Scotland, visited Ascension on his way back to the UK from the Falklands. Dr Kuepper had been conducting research on seaweeds in Antarctica and the Falklands prior to arriving on Ascension Island. Diving conditions were a lot more challenging for Dr Kuepper and his team in Antarctica, where sea temperatures ranged from 1oC to 7oC. Dr Kuepper managed to dive every day during his week on Ascension, thanks to Mike Birkett, Jimmy Young, Dianne McLeish and Nicky John. Dr Kuepper collected a number of seaweed samples from Ascension, which were taken back with him to Scotland for DNA analysis and formal identification. Very few collections of Ascension’s seaweeds have been made in the past. We anticipate that this will provide novel, maybe unprecedented knowledge of Ascension’s seaweed flora.
Dr Frithjof gave a talk about his expeditions and discoveries at Two Boats School for students and again in the evening for members of the public. We would like to thank Dr Kuepper for taking time to share his fascinating experiences with us.
Dr Kuepper giving a presentation at Two Boats School
We would like to thank Tony and Heather Morris for their contribution to conservation during their time on Ascension. Tony Morris organised the RAF’s participation in our annual beach clean up last year. Heather provided us with a continuous supply of drink cans to use for our endemic plant propagation. We wish them best wishes for the future.
Dianne McLeish has spent the last month working with us as part of her resettlement from the RAF. Dianne’s help has been invaluable. She has shown a great amount of enthusiasm and eagerness to learn about all aspects of conservation. Dianne has taken part in seabird monitoring, endemic plant propagation, invasive species clearance, turtle monitoring and rescue and has provided us with many photographs from her dive trips
Dr Kuepper and Dianne at the school with the Headteacher and Assistant Conservation Officer.
Over the last few weeks we have been recording high numbers of dead fish washing up onto the beaches around the Island. The same thing happened, at the same time of year, in 2008. A report was published last year, called ‘Reef fish mass mortality event in an isolated island off Brazil, with notes on recent similar events at Ascension, St Helena and Maldives’ by Hudson Pinheiro, Joao Gasparini and Jean-Christophe Joyeux. The report states that ‘it is possible that blooms of toxic algae, under certain conditions, caused cascading intoxication along the trophic web. Toxic algae occur in other Atlantic oceanic islands and there are reports of algal blooms occurring in remote areas that suffer low human impact. A second hypothesis is that seasonal upwelling events of anoxic or hypoxic waters may be involved (the low oxygen content would be due to the resuspension of sediment and organic matter deposited at geological scales) often heavily loaded with hydrogen sulphide. Oxygen-poor waters of the Benguela upwelling have been reported to affect the southeastern Atlantic continental shelf and these waters, in years of strong Benguela upwelling, can even reach the Mid-Atlantic Ridge island of St Helena.’ The full report will soon be available to download from our website.
We are currently consulting with contacts in the UK and Falklands and hope to have some fish samples tested soon.
Volunteers welcome. Please contact Olivia Renshaw or Natasha Williams. Ascension Island Conservation Department. Georgetown. Tel: 6359. Email: email@example.com