South Soufriere Hills

Site description (2006 baseline):

Site location and context
Covers the one small patch of the original forests in the South Soufriere Hills that has survived the pyroclastic flows from the volcano. Despite being no more than 1 mile (1.5 km) from the Chances Peak volcano, an area of evergreen and semi-deciduous forest has remained intact. The area has been little explored since 1997, since it is in the exclusion zone, but fieldworkers were able to make brief visits in 2001 and 2002. The forest appears to be in good condition.

Key biodiversity
The site was known as a hot-spot for Montserrat Orioles prior to the eruption. During brief visits in 2001 and 2002 the continued presence of the species at relatively high densities was confirmed and fledglings were seen. Densities in Roche's Forest appear to be similar to those in the most favoured parts of the Centre Hills, and perhaps 50-100 pairs are present. Roche's holds the majority of the restricted-range and biome-restricted species that occur on Montserrat. During point counts in 2001 and 2002, Antillean Crested Hummingbirds, Scaly-breasted Thrashers and Pearly-eyed Thrashers were frequent; Bridled Quail-doves, Greenthroated Caribs, Forest Thrushes and Brown Tremblers were all recorded. Lesser Antillean Bullfinches were recorded in exceptional numbers. The Purple-throated Carib was not recorded.

Non-bird biodiversity: Many of the forest species found in the Centre Hills probably also occur in this IBA, but data are almost completely lacking, especially for the post-eruption period. Among the herptiles, the Montserrat anole Anolis lividus (Iguanidae), Southern Leeward dwarf gecko Sphaerodactylus fantasticus ligniservulus (Gekkonidae), Montserrat black snake Alsophis antillensis manselli (Colubridae) and Montserrat blind worm snake Typhlops monastus monastus (Typhlopidae) may all occur. Blankenship (1990) reports that the mountain chicken Leptodactylus fallax is absent from the Roche's area. The major insect sampling project that ran from 2000 to 2003 made brief sampling visits to Roche's, but in general the insect fauna of the site is poorly known. It is likely to hold many of the endemic forest insects that occur in the Centre Hills. An undescribed endemic long-horned grasshopper has been found in Roche's as well as the Centre Hills. There is also an undescribed, endemic soldier beetle (Cantharidae) and two undescribed, endemic darkling ground beetle species (Tenebrionidae) from Roche's. The bat fauna of Roche's is thought never to have been sampled. However, predictions are that Tadarida brasiliensis (Near-threatened) and Ardops nichollsi montserrratensis (Near-threatened) are likely to be present, unless the heavy ash falls in that area have adversely affected them.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The site's position deep within the exclusion zone means that human activity has been minimal since 1996. This may have been to the benefit of some taxa. Conversely, restricted access hinders effective conservation action. This IBA is less well known ecologically than the Centre Hills, and its conservation status is not well understood.However, it is known that rats Rattus spp. are present, and were abundant in 2002 (when numbers were low in the Centre Hills). They are likely to have a significant ecological effect. The presence of other non-native mammals is not well known, but it is likely that feral livestock (possibly pigs and goats) are present, following the abandonment of farms in the southern part of the island. As with the Centre Hills, the vegetation is predominantly secondary, as a result of clearance in historical times. There are many non-native fruit trees and small, abandoned agricultural plots. These may be a source of invasive plants, and may also affect the ecology of the forest as a whole by favouring omnivores such as rats and Pearly-eyed Thrashers, which can out-compete and predate other wildlife. By virtue of its proximity to the volcanic dome, the area has presumably been impacted by ash falls over the 1997-2003 period. The severity and impact of these on the site are notknown. The site is at relatively low risk of being directly affected by pyroclastic flows. The site is now a rather small and isolated forest patch, being separated from other forested areas by pyroclastic flows. In the long term, this might be expected to adversely affect wildlife populations - however, if volcanic activity remains low, vegetativerecolonisation of pyroclastic flows is likely to be rapid enough to avert this threat.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: South Soufriere Hills. Downloaded from on 27/02/2024.