Existing knowledge shapes our understanding of ecosystems and is critical for ecosystem-based management of the world's natural resources. Typically this knowledge is biased among taxa, with some taxa far better studied than others, but the extent of this bias is poorly known. In conjunction with the publically available World Registry of Marine Species database (WoRMS) and one of the world's premier electronic scientific literature databases (Web of Science (R)), a text mining approach is used to examine the distribution of existing ecological knowledge among taxa in coral reef, mangrove, seagrass and kelp bed ecosystems. We found that for each of these ecosystems, most research has been limited to a few groups of organisms. While this bias clearly reflects the perceived importance of some taxa as commercially or ecologically valuable, the relative lack of research of other taxonomic groups highlights the problem that some key taxa and associated ecosystem processes they affect may be poorly understood or completely ignored. The approach outlined here could be applied to any type of ecosystem for analyzing previous research effort and identifying knowledge gaps in order to improve ecosystem-based conservation and management.