Nov 2

A recent IUCN report has suggested that the 30 overseas territories linked to six members of the EU could benefit from further protection.

False-plantain image

False-plantain growing in the Falkland Islands, a UK Overseas Territory

Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom are all linked to territories outside of the European continent. These territories, which occur in every ocean, are home to a unique range of biodiversity. The recent study has suggested that Europe may be able to better meet its commitment to global biodiversity by providing more protection to these overseas territories.

The 30 EU territories are located all over the globe, from the poles to the tropics, and house most of Europe’s biodiversity. For example, New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France, has as many endemic species as are present in the whole of Europe, despite being a fraction of the size. Other EU territories are located in biodiversity hotspots, including Madagascar and the Caribbean Islands.

Dominique Benzaken, co-author of the study, says: “It’s imperative that funding be realigned so that resources are proportionate to the significance of Europe’s overseas territories biodiversity.”

New Caledonia blossom bat image

New Caledonia blossom bat

Recommendations for conservation

As well as proposing recommendations on how to protect and manage the territories, the report has called for an increase in collaboration between all countries involved. Most overseas territories now have some form of policy in place to support conservation, although coordination is needed between policy makers at the local and national level. Other important conservation measures include the designation of protected areas, implementation of species recovery plans and management of invasive species.

Hans Friederich of IUCN says: “There’s been significant progress in some areas thanks to targeted conservation measures such as protected areas. Yet large tracks of key global biodiversity could still be at risk and thus jeopardize the well-being of the local communities.”

St Helena gumwood image

St Helena gumwood growing on the UK Overseas Territory of St Helena

UK Overseas Territories

The 14 UK Overseas Territories are host to an amazing array of species, including 20 endemic species of bird, such as the Ascension frigatebird, and around 500 endemic invertebrate species. The island of St Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean is particularly noted for its plant biodiversity, which includes the magnificent St Helena gumwood and the St Helena boxwood. The management of conservation activities in the UK Overseas Territories is currently supported by the Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP).

Read the full IUCN report – Future Directions for Biodiversity Action in Europe overseas: Outcomes of the Review of the Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Learn more about the UK Overseas Territories with our quiz.

View images and videos of species from the UK Overseas Territories.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author