A new project to foster the UK’s world-leading ocean science and better understand the value of the marine environment has been kick-started today with a £150,000 government award, Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey announced.
The project, led by Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) in collaboration with the University of Plymouth and the University of St Andrews, will aim to further understand ‘natural capital’ – the economic and social benefits of our natural assets – and the role this has to play in the marine environment. The concept is one that underpins the recently-launched 25 Year Environment Plan, the government’s long-term vision for protecting the environment for future generations.
The UK marine environment supports the economy in many ways, from employment to leisure and recreation. To maintain these benefits, it is vital that our seas are managed sustainably, and our marine natural capital is enhanced. The project will help to improve existing data on natural capital, find key gaps in evidence, and highlight how the natural capital approach can play an important role in policy decision-making.
Minister Coffey announced the funding during a visit to Britain’s Ocean City and its renowned marine institutions, including PML, University of Plymouth, Marine Biological Association, Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science and the National Marine Aquarium.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “Alongside being home to a fantastic array of wildlife, our seas and coasts are vital for people and livelihoods too – supporting countless coastal communities, boosting our economy through tourism and providing millions of people with a place for leisure and recreation.
Looking at the value of nature in economic and social terms helps us better understand the choices we make, and this project will build on our world leading marine science to embed a natural capital approach into decision making – helping us protect one of most precious assets for future generations.”
Dr Tara Hooper, Project leader and Environmental Economist at PML, commented: “This project presents an exciting opportunity for our research to inform the direction of UK policy for the marine environment. There is growing momentum behind natural capital approaches, particularly in terms of how we can develop accounting systems to monitor and report on changes to our natural environment, but most of these were developed for land and freshwater systems. Through this project we will be looking at how we can apply natural capital thinking to our coasts and seas, with the unique challenges these environments present.”
Dr Sian Rees, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Plymouth said: “The University is working with partners to develop world-class research on the application of the natural capital approach in the marine environment. Though the development of natural capital tools to support decision making we aim to pioneer innovative approaches to marine management that promote a ‘net gain’ for biodiversity and society.”
The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, published in January, sets out how we will use a natural capital approach to help us see the additional benefits – whether that is improved health and wellbeing, or national prosperity – in every part our environment, helping improve and direct decision making, and guiding new development.
Latest Office for National Statistics figures show the monetary value of the UK’s natural capital at £761 billion.