Understanding the evidence base and identifying threats to the marine environment is critical to ensure cost-effective management and to identify priorities for future research. The United Kingdom (UK) government is responsible for approximately 2% of the world’s oceans, most of which belongs to its 14 Overseas Territories (UKOTs). Containing biodiversity of global significance, and far in excess of the UK mainland’s domestic species, there has recently been a strong desire from many of the UKOTs, the UK Government, and NGOs to improve marine management in these places. Implementing evidence-based marine policy is, however, challenged by the disparate nature of scientific research in the UKOTs and knowledge gaps about the threats they face. Here, we address these issues by systematically searching for scientific literature which has examined UKOT marine biodiversity and by exploring publicly available spatial threat data. We find that UKOT marine biodiversity has received consistent, but largely low, levels of scientific interest, and there is considerable geographical and subject bias in research effort. Of particular concern is the lack of research focus on management or threats to biodiversity. The extent and intensity of threats vary amongst and within the UKOTs but unsurprisingly, climate change associated threats affect them all and direct human stressors are more prevalent in those with higher human populations. To meet global goals for effective conservation and management, there is an urgent need for additional and continued investment in research and management in the Overseas Territories, particularly those that have been of lesser focus.
Bibliographical note© The Author(s) 2018
- Anthropogenic threats
- Marine biodiversity conservation
- Evidence base
- Gap analysis
- Research synthesis