Research Profile | Natalie Coles | Marine Science & Climate Change

A Review of Marine Management in the UK Overseas Territories: A Roadmap for Gibraltar
31st January 2023

Describe your MSc project?

My research project aimed to develop recommendations to support the delivery of additional marine management actions in Gibraltar. The rationale for this study was to bridge knowledge gaps on the marine environments around Gibraltar, through a review of literature on UK and UK Overseas Territories (UKOT) marine environments and management policies. The study builds upon the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) reports for UKOTs which includes Gibraltar as part of the Mediterranean region. I assessed the key climatic drivers, human threats, impacts, management issues and management solutions identified in the MCCIP reports for the UK and UKOTs to compare similarities and differences. To build upon this information I undertook a critical literature review of academic papers relevant to marine management in the UK and UKOTs. I also reviewed the Department of the Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change and Heritage (DESCCH) ‘Good Environmental Status’ report for Gibraltar, conducted as part of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), to identify specific information about Gibraltar’s marine environments. Finally, I conducted my own Rapid Vulnerability Assessment (RVA) for two habitats in Gibraltar, intertidal rocky shores and natural and artificial reefs. A RVA allowed me to identify the vulnerability of these habitats to the impact of climate change and human threats by assessing their level of risk to these threats and their capacity to cope. By synthesising the data from all the literature reviewed and the outcomes of the RVA I was able to make informed recommendations on ways to improve the management of Gibraltar’s marine and coastal environments. Recommendations have been categorised into short term, those which can be planned and implemented in the next 10 years and long term, those where initial planning could start within the next 10 years, but implementation and/or delivery is expected to happen in 10 years or more.

What type of research has it involved and what skills have you learned?

My study utilised qualitative data, through various analysis methods to meet my research aims. I performed multiple literature reviews, the first on the seven MCCIP reports where I synthesis the information into comparison matrices identifying the similarities and differences between the climatic drivers, human impacts and marine management policies in each region. The second a critical literature review of relevant academic papers for marine management in the UK and UKOTs, identified through a key word search. Qualitative data from these papers was then subject to a systematic review to highlight information on climatic drivers, human threats, impacts, management issues and management solutions. I produced a heatmap to visually demonstrate the similarities and differences between each topic for each region. Additionally, I conducted a RVA to assess the impacts of climate change and human activities specifically on marine environments in Gibraltar, providing new data on Gibraltar’s marine environments. During the project I have learnt how to critically read academic papers and synthesis relevant material into an easily understandable format such as the MCCIP matrices and heatmaps, so these could be utilised by decision makers. I have also learnt how to conduct a RVA for marine habitats using information on Gibraltar mostly from DESCCH reports and my own knowledge of the environment.

Were there any partners/stakeholders on your project?

I have engaged with UK stakeholders from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture (Cefas) and the Marine Biological Association (MBA), who were involved with producing the MCCIP reports. Initially we discuss the rationale for the study and how I could develop upon the outcomes of MCCIP reports. I then presented to these stakeholders on my preliminary recommendations, based upon the literature reviews, which could be implemented in Gibraltar. The preliminary findings were also presented at UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum workshop entitled ‘Taking the colonialism out of UK Overseas Territories research and conservation’ where the study was highlighted as an outcome and benefit-oriented project. Here I emphasised the possibility of increased knowledge sharing across the UKOTs to increase the understanding of threats to the marine environment and effective management strategies.

Why should the public know about this topic?

The public should be aware of the project as the marine environment provides us with essential ecosystem goods and services, which benefit all human life. Currently the impacts of climate change and human activities are placing great pressure on our marine ecosystems, threatening their ability to provide essential goods and services. Increased public awareness of the importance of marine environments and the threats they face is vital to effective climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation. Specifically in Gibraltar, if the public are aware of this study’s road map, understand the recommendations and support their implementation, additional marine management actions are likely to be more successful.

What is the wider impact of your research?

The research adds to the limited knowledge on Gibraltar’s marine environments and could be used by various stakeholders to improve marine management which aims to increases biodiversity conservation. The RVA conducted for intertidal rocky shores and natural and artificial reefs could also be performed on other marine environments in Gibraltar, which could then be regularly updated to track progress of management actions and support other assessments such as the MSFD ‘Good Environmental Status’. The results of this study could be included in future MCCIP reports on the Mediterranean region. The findings could also be used to inform future discussions and cooperation on biodiversity conservation across the UKOTs through organisations such as the UK Overseas Territories Association and the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum.

Comments from Head of School

The UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) are home to 90 % of the UK’s biodiversity and represent the fifth largest marine area in the world. Gibraltar is a UKOT located in the in the Western Mediterranean and considered a biodiversity hotspot due to the confluence of the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Natalie’s research will enable Gibraltar to improve on its marine management strategy. By working with UK stakeholders, she was able to review best practice strategies that are currently employed across the UK Overseas Territories and able to present her findings at an international workshop advocating that projects should be outcome and benefit-focussed. By critically evaluating marine policy gaps and through sharing of best practice across all UKOTs can we address the biodiversity crisis and deliver improved, effective and sustainable marine management for all.
  • MSc

    Master in Marine Science & Climate Change

    Designed and delivered by expert academics and scientists, this full or part-time interdisciplinary programme blends theoretical study with practical, field-based work. You will cover specialist subject areas and gain the skills required to tackle the complex issues associated with the sustainable development of marine ecosystems.[...]

    1 Year

    No Placement option

    Full Time

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