island-conservation-preventing-extinctions-ascension-island-feat

Engineering Ascension Island

Further research on Ascension Island’s human-engineered ecosystem could generate insight into current environmental challenges.

The challenge on Ascension Island is to maintain a balance of the new and the old. A novel ecosystem is an ecosystem engineered by humans. Over the last 150 years, non-native plant species were planted on the remote Island in the Atlantic Ocean. What began as an experiment to transform an ecosystem has left researchers to observe the relationship of native and non-native species. Island species are highly vulnerable to invasive species impacts–is there room for non-native plants to grow on Ascension Island?

island-conservation-preventing-extinctions-ascension

Green Mountain is Ascension Island’s highest peak, standing nearly 3,000 feet tall. The beautiful green landscape is human-engineered. Credit: Clare Fieseler

Ascension Island’s natural landscape is desolate. The foreboding terrain inspired Charles Darwin to include the word “Devil” in the name of several of Ascension’s volcanic rock features. He arrived to Ascension from the Galápagos, calling the island ‘”Hideous.” It was Darwin who conceived the idea to engineer a new environment on Ascension. Sir Joseph Hooker, a young botanist, took on the challenge. In 1843 he embarked on a life-long experiment and introduced 330 non-native plants to Ascension Island. By 1870, more than 5,000 trees were planted. The experiment transformed the island ecosystem.

 

The landscape on Green Mountain stands lush and stoic but is also covered with an artificial green ecosystem. Moisture is captured in the arms of the tall non-native trees and the water forms a pond on the forest floor. Not too long ago, merely one solitary tree stood swaying above the dry landscape of Ascension Island. However, the transformation on Ascension Island comes at a cost. As an elderly man, Hooker expressed regret in his journals.

The intentional non-native species distribution, at this scale, made room for unintended consequences. Only a few native plant species survived. Hydrology and soil changes were noted, and the scarce endemic plant species, still left on the island, were observed competing for regeneration.

Ascension Island naturalist Stedson Stroud is leading the efforts to facilitate recovery of endemic species. Two native fern species grew on Ascension for thousands of years, and have found refuge from the onslaught of new competitors in the mosses of non-native trees. Stroud is planting more of these trees in hopes of sparking population growth in these two adaptive ferns. The trick to conserving these ferns is to help them adapt and coexist with the non-native trees. However, it is still too early to know whether the ferns are thriving in their new habitat.

island-conservation-preventing-extinctions-ascension-island

Stedson Stroud surveying the artificial ecosystem in search any remaining endemic plant species. Credit: Clare Fieseler

Ascension’s unusual history could be valuable as a reference point for some of today’s greatest environmental puzzles. Island Conservation board member and invasive species expert Daniel Simberloff suspects that further research on Ascension Island could generate insight into challenges like greening Earth’s deserts and expanding local crop production to meet the human population’s nutritional needs.

It is too late to erase the history on Ascension Island. For now, conservationists are concerned with maintaining a healthy relationship between the new and old ecosystems.

Feature photo: Tracking station on Ascension Island. Credit: Dominic Smith
Source: National Geographic

About John Brodie

John has recently received scholarship to enroll with Prescott College to study Marine Conservation via the Kino Bay Center in the Gulf of California. A storytelling career started while living in Sweden, searching for surf in the Baltic Sea. His writing and photography have since evolved into contributions in support of sustainable material efforts within the surf industry, publishing work with Patagonia and developing content for many-alike. New to Island Conservation, John is thrilled to join the communications team and to share the stories about saving island species from extinction. When not writing, you can find John and his dog surfing and camping along the West Coast.

View All Posts

Follow Island Conservation on Social Media

[ism-social-followers list='fb,tw,li,youtube,instagram' template='ism_template_sf_1' list_align='horizontal' display_counts='false' display_full_name='true' box_align='center' ]

[ism-social-followers list='fb,tw,li,youtube,instagram' template='ism_template_sf_1' list_align='horizontal' display_counts='false' display_full_name='true' box_align='center' ]

Midway Atoll conservation

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this:
Send this to a friend

extreme fast weight loss pills 5 day anonymous diet plan to lose weight mango weight loss pills prescription weight loss pills rated original shark tank keto diet pills weight loss pills science soup recipes on keto diet lose weight pills products keto diet recipes for cauliflower weight loss medicine ayurvedic keto diet recipes kenya common concerns of weight loss pills low calorie diet to help dog lose weight apple cider vinegar pills how much weight loss new over the counter weight loss drug diet pill weight loss forum why some drugs lead to weight loss extrene weight loss pills does keto diet work matcha tea vs green tea pills for weight loss progesterone birth control pills weight loss when does weight loss show on keto diet alli weight loss pills 60mg diet good for weight loss exclusion diet for weight loss drugs similar to adderall for weight loss whole food vegan diet no weight loss best online weight loss pills best way to lose weight fast pills radish diet and weight loss free diet weight loss tips doctor prescription weight loss pills

cbd high blood pressure diabetes and cbd oil best cbd oil reddit is cbd safe cbd oil burlington vermont cbd oil ireland nanocraft cbd reviews cbd oil pulmonary hypertension popular cbd brands standard dose cbd cbd drip rix cbd autoimmune cannapresso cbd cbd drip review pur7 cbd oil the remedy concentrated cbd oil cbd infused drinks recipes cbd oil and pancreatitis what are cbd tinctures cbd doses three sixty cbd is cbd oil help with pain can cbd oil help with asthma nanocraft cbd pain stick hemp and olive cbd oil cbd for pets reviews 1 oz cbd oil medicinal cbd best cbd oil or sleep jeffs best cbd oil cbd oil hemp leaf or seed cbd oil pain management

king size pills amazon supplements for men over 50 pills to increase seman volume trazodone sexual enhancement vtrex male enhancement formula stud king male enhancement pills 2020 most potent male enhancement size up xl pills what is the 1 male enhancement pill hentai pills turn guy into sex fiend free penis enlargement database what common pills can enlarge penis penis enlargement exercise programs 100 male pills reviews amazon the red pill natural youth alpha male enhancement pills the after sex pill vitamins to help male enhancement blue stallion pills breakthrough in penis enlargement male enhancement pill valerie best sex pills on amazon pennywise penis enlargement is viagra a scheduled drug do penis enlargenent pills really work do male enhancement which rhino pills are the best over the counter erection pills cvs nyc bodega sex pills top 10 natural male enhancement pills side effects of herbal male enhancement pills penis enlargement ad gif