The site covers the north-eastern part of the island, north of a line linking Long Point in the south-east and Banks Point in the north-west, via Hutt’s Gate in the interior, together with Shore Island (68 m), George Island (32 m) and all other offshore rocks. There are three vegetation zones. Below 350 m, c.25% of the area, the landscape is arid with large-scale erosion, dominated by Suaeda, Lantana and Carpobrotus. This gives way, up to 500 m, to pasture and non-indigenous woodland dominated by Pennisetum, Cynodon and Digitaria, with Acacia and Pinus. Above 500 m lies ‘moist’ and ‘semi-moist’ grassland, woodland (dominants include Agrostis, Pennisetum and Stenotaphrum, with Podocarpus, Acacia and Pinus), and flax Phormium tenax plantations. The coast is dominated by imposing sea cliffs, rising mainly to between 300 m and 570 m. The Barn (616 m), in the far north-east, is the highest point, but the elevation is almost the same at Hutt’s Gate (609 m). Shore Island is a large, steep basaltic stack, whereas George Island, also basaltic, is shoe-shaped, less steep, its ‘toe’ pointing into the south-easterly swell. Encircled by breakers, with landing difficult, both islets are barren, with heavy guano deposits at upper levels. Included are eight important Charadrius sanctaehelenae breeding sites, Sane Valley, Deadwood Plain (the main site), Longwood Farm, Bottomwoods, Horse Point Plain, Prosperous Bay North, Prosperous Bay Plain and Upper Prosperous Bay. Important fossil sites are at Sugarloaf, Flagstaff Hill, Prosperous Bay and Dry Gut.
See Box and Table 2 for key species. Although as many as 48 bird taxa have been recorded, there are now only eight known species of breeding seabirds and 11 species of resident landbirds, i.e. Oceanodroma castro, Phaethon aethereus, Sula dactylatra, S. leucogaster, Alectoris chukar, Phasianus colchicus, Gallinula chloropus, Charadrius sanctaehelenae, Sterna fuscata, Anous stolidus, A. minutus, Gygis alba, Columba livia, Geopelia striata, Acridotheres tristis, Foudia madagascariensis, Padda oryzivora, Estrilda astrild and Serinus flaviventris. Bulweria bulwerii may also breed. Shore Island has the highest seabird breeding diversity in St Helena, with at least seven species, possibly eight. There are also records from the site of non-breeding visitors, and vagrants with fewer than five records. The former include Diomedea exulans, Pterodroma mollis, Oceanites oceanicus, Fregetta grallaria, Fregata sp., Ardea cinerea, Bubulcus ibis, Ciconia ciconia, Calidris alba, Stercorarius parasiticus and Sterna paradisaea. The site requires further study.
Non-bird biodiversity: Of particular importance are the endemic invertebrates, of which the best known are Labidura herculeana (CR) and Aplothorax burchelli (CR), known alive only from the area of Horse Point Plain, and last seen in the mid-1960s. Both may well be extinct. This highlights the extreme importance of habitat protection of the northern plains areas.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: North-east St Helena. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 14/08/2020.