Gough Island

Country/Territory St Helena (to UK)
Area 65 km2
Altitude 0 - 900m
Priority high
Habitat loss possible
Knowledge good

General characteristics

Gough is a volcanic island lying in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, c.2,800 km from South Africa and 3,200 km from South America. Politically it is part of the Tristan da Cunha group (EBA 079, some 350 km to the north-west), which is a dependency of St Helena (Secondary Area s038), itself a UK Dependent Territory (see p. 302 for map).

Gough is uninhabited apart from a small meteorological station manned by South Africans. The vegetation consists of tussock grassland on the coast and up to 300 m above sea-level, fern-bush occasionally interrupted by island trees Phylica arborea to c.500 m, and wet heath to 800 m; above 600 m occur bog and swamp communities and 'feldmark' (an assemblage of dwarf, cushion-forming and crevice plants on exposed areas such as ridges) (see Wace and Holdgate 1976, Clark and Dingwall 1985, also Oldfield 1987).

Restricted-range species

Gallinula comeri and Tristan Moorhen G. nesiotis (see EBA 079) are treated here as separate species following Collar and Stuart (1985) and Cooper and Ryan (1994), contra Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993) who considered them to be conspecific.

As well as its two endemic landbirds, there are several seabird species and subspecies which are largely confined to these islands and to Tristan when breeding, including Tristan (Wandering) Albatross Diomedea exulans dabbenena (this population is treated as a full species by Robertson and Nunn in press), Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis (mainly Tristan-Gough group) and Atlantic Petrel Pterodroma incerta (Tristan-Gough group only).

Species IUCN Category
Gough Moorhen (Gallinula comeri) VU
Gough Finch (Rowettia goughensis) CR

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
SH008 Gough Island St Helena (to UK)

Threat and conservation

Gough is the largest scarcely modified cool temperate island ecosystem in the South Atlantic. House mice Mus musculus are the only introduced mammals, although goats and sheep have been introduced in the past, but are no longer present. Nevertheless, both the restricted-range bird species are considered threatened due to the risk of other alien species (especially rats) being introduced into their tiny ranges. This threat status is despite the fact of the species' numerical strength: there are up to 3,000 pairs of Gallinula comeri (Watkins and Furness 1986), though only 200 pairs of Rowettia goughensis (Collar and Stuart 1985).

Gough is internationally important for its seabird colonies comprising some 20 species (Richardson 1984, Williams 1984), including Diomedea exulans (Vulnerable, c.3,300 breeding individuals on Gough; see 'Restricted-range species', above), Pterodroma incerta (Vulnerable, some thousands of pairs; see above) and Sooty Albatross Phoebetria fusca (Near Threatened). Gough was granted World Heritage status in December 1995, only the third British site to be so recognized for its biological value.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Gough Island. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 07/12/2021.