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17 March 2021
Blue Communities is pleased to announce the launch of the first updatable, interrogable and comprehensive systematic evidence map on the interaction between marine conservation management and the health and well-being of coastal communities in South East Asia.

To understand the existing evidence base, a team of Blue Communities researchers set about the challenging task of identifying and analysing all the research they could find on the subject. A systematic evidence map was then developed to provide a comprehensive description of the extent of the evidence, from 281 studies across 7 countries. This novel, interactive, open-access resource facilitates detailed investigation of knowledge clusters and highlights understudied topic areas.

How the map was created
To achieve this aggregation of research, the team systematically sifted through nearly 43,000 potentially relevant studies, eventually narrowing down to 281 studies that were included in the final evidence map. Most of the 281 studies were peer-reviewed publications (90%), the majority of which were undertaken in Indonesia or the Philippines (72%). There was a mix of studies that used quantitative data (45%), qualitative methods (31%) and both (24%). 

Number of studies by country included in this systematic map, from a total of 281. Inset shows the studies by research data type.

Engaging stakeholders
The researchers also engaged a group of stakeholders, which included representatives from more than ten organisations, such as academic institutions in SE Asia and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) with a regional and international scope. The stakeholders provided essential topic-relevant input by refining the scope of the map questions (e.g. the breadth of marine conservation interventions), suggesting words to use as search terms and highlighting other relevant studies and sources of grey literature.

As well as identifying knowledge clusters and knowledge gaps, the map shows that many quantitative studies did not include a comparator, meaning that the authors of these studies cannot say that a certain marine conservation caused a particular impact on human health and well-being. Future research studies should compare the health and wellbeing outcomes with the situation before the marine conservation effort, or with a place where there was no marine conservation happening.

Heatmap showing knowledge clusters and gaps across seven marine conservation categories and ten human health and well-being outcome categories. Values within boxes indicate the number of studies. Bars show the percentage representation of the marine conservation and human health and well-being outcomes in this systematic map.

How to use the evidence map
The map is a valuable open-access resource, not only for Blue Communities researchers but also for other researchers and policymakers exploring marine management and human health in SE Asia. It is also a starting point for a detailed investigation of knowledge clusters and highlights understudied topic areas. As much of the evidence shown here is likely to be nationally or locally specific, and because systematic maps do not assess the quality of studies, users should refer to original research articles to fully understand and contextualise the findings.

Dr Jacqualyn Eales, Blue Communities researcher with the University of Exeter, lead author on this study, commented: “We spent nearly two years collecting research studies for our systematic map, which highlights knowledge gluts and gaps about linkages between marine conservation and the health and well-being of coastal communities in South East Asia. The studies fed into our free, user-friendly online repository of research for stakeholders who are interested in this topic. We are really excited to share this interactive map, and accompanying database, which we have designed so that users can filter and find research in specific geographical and topic areas”.

Prawesti Wulandari, Blue Communities researcher with the Centre for Sustainable Energy and Resource Management, Universitas Nasional (Indonesia) and co-author on this study, commented: “The systematic map provides useful information, particularly for practitioners and policy makers interested in formulating strategies on, for example, research and intervention priorities relevant to management of marine conservation areas. The experience gained from conducting such a study has been very useful for the local researchers, especially since the method is still rarely used and exploited in Indonesia”.

The associated paper has been published in the Environment International journal and can be accessed here:

Blue Communities systematic evidence map

Blue Communities systematic evidence map

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