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UK Overseas Territories

The sixteen UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) are former colonies that have retained their direct British links and are home to around 200,000 people. They are all, with the exception of Gibraltar and the British Antarctic Territory, small islands, and experience a wide range of climates, from polar to tropical. Together they have a total land area (not including the British Antarctic Territory) similar in size to Wales, though have a native flora somewhat larger than the UK's, with approximately 1600 species (compared to about 1400 in the UK); about 180 of which are endemic to the UKOTs.

In the South Atlantic are St Helena, Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and the British Antarctic Territory. Five UKOTs are situated in the Caribbean region: Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. On the European continent are Gibraltar and the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. Finally, sitting rather distantly from the other UKOTs are Bermuda (western North Atlantic), British Indian Ocean Territory, and Pitcairn (southern Pacific Ocean).

ukot Bermuda Turks and Caicos Islands Cayman Islands British Virgin Islands Anguilla Montserrat Pitcairn island British Antartic Territory South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Falkland Islands Tristan da Cunha St Helena Ascension Island Gibraltar British Indian Ocean Territory Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus UK Overseas Territories Bermuda Turks and Caicos Islands Cayman Islands British Virgin Islands Anguilla Montserrat Pitcairn Island British Antartic Territory South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Falkland Islands Tristan da Cunha St Helena and Dependencies Ascension Island Gibraltar British Indian Ocean Territory Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus
Clickable map showing location of our UKOT partners

Kew has a long history of botanical study in the UKOTs, with Joseph Dalton Hooker visiting several of the South Atlantic UKOTs on the Ross expedition to the Antarctic in 1839-1843, during which he made many plant specimens now housed in Kew's Herbarium. Hooker later became Director of Kew, holding that post for 20 years. Today, seed conservation forms part of a wider programme of plant conservation in the UKOTs, with a dedicated team based at Kew's Herbarium, undertaking local capacity building, botanical inventories, conservation assessments, and horticultural protocols, as well as seed banking.

To date, the MSBP has banked over 1000 seed collections of almost 600 taxa from the UKOTs, including 79 of the endemic species. While a small number of collections from St Helena pre-date the MSB, most collections banked have been made during the first International Programme of the MSBP (2000-2009), and during subsequent projects, such as the Darwin Initiative-funded projects in the Caribbean UKOTs and St Helena (see below). Use of banked seed is increasing, with seeds of native species being used in plant propagation and habitat restoration work in the Falkland Islands, St Helena, British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

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Discussing habitat restoration with a local farmer in the Falkland Islands. Credit: RBG, Kew

Current projects

Global Tree Seed Bank Project

Funder: Garfield Weston Foundation

Currently, three UKOTs (British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Islands) are participating in the Caribbean regional package of this project, along with Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

During 2013-2015, the Darwin Initiative-funded Seed conservation in the Caribbean UK Overseas Territories project enabled small-scale seed banks to be established in the five Caribbean UKOTs, along with a training and collecting programme. This work continues under the Global Tree Seed Bank project, with 100 tree and shrub species targeted for banking locally, and duplication at the MSB.

The seed conservation partners in this project are:
BahamasBahamas Forestry Unit
British Virgin IslandsNational Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands
MontserratMontserrat Department of Environment
Puerto RicoPuerto Rico Department of Environmental and Natural Resources
Puerto RicoUniversity of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus
Turks and Caicos IslandsTurks and Caicos Department of Environment and Coastal Resources
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Forests of Montserrat's Centre Hills in the shadow of the Soufriere Hills volcano. Credit: RBG, Kew

Conserving the genetic diversity of St Helena's threatened endemic flora

Funder: Darwin Initiative

St Helena is home to 45 endemic higher plant species, many under severe threat of extinction, and at least ten with fewer than 100 plants remaining in the wild, and several more with fragmented, small or declining ranges. This project is seeking to improve the representation of the threatened endemics in ex situ collections through a gap analysis of existing ex situ collections, capacity building in seed conservation and horticulture (training and equipment), and collecting and banking seeds and spores of endemic plants.

The seed conservation partner in this project is:
St HelenaEnvironmental Management Division of the St Helena Government
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Mellissia begoniifolia, with only a handful of plants remaining in the wild in St Helena. Credit: RBG, Kew

Project partners

Anguilla Anguilla Department of Environment
British Virgin Islands National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands
Cayman IslandsCayman Department of Environment
MontserratMontserrat Department of Environment
Turks and Caicos IslandsTurks and Caicos Department of Environment and Coastal Resources
Ascension IslandAscension Island Conservation Department
St HelenaSt Helena Environmental Management Division
Tristan da CunhaTristan da Cunha Conservation Department
Falkland IslandsFalklands Conservation
Falkland IslandsFalkland Islands Environmental Planning Department
South GeorgiaSouth Georgia Government
BermudaBermuda Department of Environment and Natural Resources

For further information please contact Thomas Heller, Islands Conservation Partnership Coordinator (Projects) in the Islands Conservation team at Kew.