Ringfenced for Alex Ford's research project on pollution and shrimp sperm count

University of Portsmouth researchers have received a share of UKRI funding to help better understand the economic value of marine ecosystems

14 November 2022


A new Solent-based project is one of several in the UK to receive a share of  £6.4 million funding to determine the economic value of biodiversity.

The aim of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) investment is to better manage the natural environment by directing investment to restore and conserve this vital resource.

Marine biodiversity provides a host of benefits including providing food, capturing carbon, extracting phosphorus and nitrogen waste, providing jobs and being fundamental to our wellbeing.

Though the UK has thousands of species of animals and plants, research has shown that the UK is also one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries.

The University of Portsmouth and other research organisations are supporting a Plymouth Marine Laboratory led scheme, ‘Sea the Value’, which has received £797,953 in funding. The aim is to determine the social and economic values of marine ecosystems and explore who benefits from biodiversity.

The three-year project will:

  • Investigate the links between marine biodiversity and the services provided by habitats accounting for their extent, condition and resilience.
  • Determine the economic and social values associated with carbon sequestration and bioremediation of waste and apply these to support natural capital accounting frameworks.
  • Connect the ecological, economic, and social values of biodiversity to decision-making to support green investment.

The research is focused on two field sites-  The Solent in Southern England and the Moray Firth in Scotland. At each site, researchers will collect data from key habitats, while engaging with local communities and organisations to map values and trade-offs.

The findings will then be shared with coastal partnerships through a series of training exercises, to ensure best practice across the UK.

Our coastal areas and the biodiversity contained within them provide critical services to human society

Professor Gordon Watson, University of Portsmouth’s School of Biological Sciences

Professor Gordon Watson, from the University of Portsmouth’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “Our coastal areas and the biodiversity contained within them provide critical services to human society. However, unless we can understand their ecological, economic, social and cultural value we cannot provide accurate data to deliver UK policies aimed at reversing the deterioration of coastal habitats.”

The new projects were announced as part of UKRI’s Economics of Biodiversity programme following the UK Government Dasgupta Review, which found that biodiversity must be embedded in decision making to support nature recovery and halt biodiversity loss.

The funding has been provided by UKRI’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair of NERC, said: “The Economics of Biodiversity programme will address critical gaps in our understanding of the economic and societal value and benefits of biodiversity.

“As governments work to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss at the COP27 conference and the forthcoming COP15 biodiversity conference, these UKRI-funded projects will support increased investment and improve management of biodiversity.”

The Solent project is one of several being carried out by teams at the University of Portsmouth to help protect marine ecosystems. They are also exploring how nature-based approaches could be used to improve water quality and underwater environments in coastal areas. 

The RaNTrans (Rapid reduction of Nutrients in Transitional Waters) project is the first of its kind to use native oysters, seaweed and marine worms to deliver sustainable solutions that will rapidly reduce algal mat coverage and contribute to reductions in nutrient levels on both sides of the English Channel.

Professor Watson added: “We see great potential synergies between the ‘Sea the Value’ and other projects like RaNTrans with the expectation that, together, they will contribute to making the Solent a better place for the local people and marine species.”