Our impact

We conduct marine research that strives for excellence and delivers impact, working with business and companies that embrace sustainable practices to unlock the ocean’s value; developing tools to understand risks and trade offs in expanding the blue economy; and pursuing the uptake of our research into policy and science applications. Thus helping to address the environmental challenges of the 21st century to ensure a healthy, productive and resilient ocean for present and future generations.  

Below are some brief examples showing how our research has made an impact:

Putting ocean acidification onto the international agenda

PML scientists have been at the forefront of developing the science of ocean acidification and pivotal in placing the issues surrounding the science firmly onto the international agenda. Dr Carol Turley, in particular has championed ocean acidification as a serious threat to the marine environment on United Nations platforms.

PML first identified ocean acidification as a problem as part of a Defra review on the potential impact of increased carbon dioxide in the marine environment in 2004, this was followed by contribution to a Royal Society Working Group which concluded that further research into ocean acidification was needed. In 2007 Dr Turley was invited to lead the ocean section in the 4th IPCC Assessment Report – the first of these assessments to include information on ocean acidification.

This raised the profile of ocean acidification and growing concern about the problem led to NERC, Defra and DECC combining forces to fund a £12M UK research programme to investigate the effects of ocean acidification, to which several PML scientists were major contributors. The scientific findings from the project informed policy at an international level and have contributed to discussions at several major events including several UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, including providing input to the 2015 Paris agreement.

Valuing the marine environment for better management

PML scientists contributed to the National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA), the most comprehensive assessment of the UK’s natural environment ever undertaken. This strongly influenced the white paper “The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature” for England which developed principles for incorporating ecosystem services and their value within conventional decision making.

The NEA and subsequent reports have brought ecosystem service valuation into the mainstream, changing the agenda on how to manage coastal systems, which has been incorporated into several coastal management plans.

Following on from this PML provided a free workshop to help coastal officers understand ES and how valuation approaches can be used to support site management, PML assisted with incorporating ES into the Exe Estuary management plan.

Through our work on marine ES, PML has not only fed into and influenced national policy but has also enabled these novel approaches and understanding to impact coastal site management at the grass roots level.

Further information:
Plymouth Marine Laboratory. 2017. Ecosystem Services Valuation for Southwest Coastal Managers. A guide to support the integration of ecosystem services into the management of coastal areas. Plymouth, UK.

Players on a global stage

We have had a presence at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - Conference of the Parties every year since 2009, working in partnership with other institutions from around the globe, to raise awareness of some of the pressures facing the ocean and the importance of the ocean in relation to climate change.  Our scientists have also made a significant contribution to work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and their keystone Assessment Reports on Climate Change.

In the UK and further afield our research is helping to inform policy makers in implementing the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).  The MSFD aims to achieve good environmental status of the EU's marine waters by 2020 and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend.

Many of our scientists are invited members of influential, international and national bodies, some examples of which are given below:

Inquiries & Consultations

Houses of parliament exterior at night lit up

Parliamentary inquiries and consultations, to which we have contributed through the Research Councils UK, or in our own right, include:

Energy and Climate Change Committee
  • Carbon Capture & Storage
  • Marine and offshore energy
  • Fuelling the debate: UK energy - successes & future challenges
Environmental Audit Committee
  • Plastic bags
  • Marine protected areas - oral evidence given
  • Environmental impact of microplastics
  • Nitrates
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee
  • Food security
European Union
  • Seabed Mining
  • Arctic funding
Health Select Committee
  • Public Health England
House of Commons Science & Technology Committee
  • Water quality
  • European & UK space agencies
  • Public understanding of climate change
  • Women in science
  • Leaving the EU - implications and opportunities for science
  • Ocean acidification (written and oral evidence)
House of Lords Science & Technology Committee
  • Waste opportunities: stimulating a bioeconomy
  • EU regional marine co-operation - oral evidence given

Marine Management Organisation

  • Social impacts of fisheries, aquaculture, recreation, tourism and marine protected areas in marine plan areas in England
  • South Plan Analytical Report (SPAR) marine planning (ecosystem services)

Royal Society

  • Remote sensing/Earth observation - understanding