You’ve probably heard of reforestation projects, or even peat bog restoration as examples of how nature can help us capture carbon, but have you ever thought about the power of marine environments?

Dr Ian Hendy is a Tropical Marine Ecologist and Course Leader for Marine Biology at the University of Portsmouth. In the latest episode of the Life Solved he shares some insights into the incredible capacity these natural ecosystems hold in the fight against climate change.

In order to reach our net zero goals, carbon capture and storage is a vital part of the equation. By removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere we can slow and hope to stop the warming, ‘greenhouse effect’ this causes. In addition to clever technical innovations, scientists are increasingly turning to natural processes to help us out. These are known as ‘nature-based solutions’ Ian says coastal and marine environments hold some of our most precious assets here. From sea grasses and kelp forests in our chilly British waters to mangroves in tropical environments.

In the podcast Ian explains how integrating the socioeconomics of a region is fundamental to the success of projects that aim to restore flora and fauna in marine environments. Often coastal development or intensive fishing can come into conflict with local ecosystems and he shares examples of projects that are working with communities to adapt and maintain livelihoods in these all-important regions.

Have you heard of the term ‘ecosystem services?’ Ian says this reframing of an ecosystem’s value in terms of its benefits to human life can help us attribute economic capital that can make the case for conservation in commercial terms:

Ian is currently part of a consortia that’s leading the UK’s largest kelp restoration project. For the first three years they worked with local communities along the 30 mile stretch of coastline to understand how coastal livelihoods were impacting ecosystems here. Ian’s first job as a commercial fisherman came in handy when he needed to see how dredging and trawling had damaged the once verdant forest of kelp here along the South Coast. In projects such as this, fishing activity continues to take place, but with less invasive and destructive practices. By using more sustainable and low-impact methods such as static and drift nets, Mother Nature is able to have a helping hand in restoring habitats. 

What’s more, there are plenty of other ideas on the horizon for how humans can intervene to promote and support natural processes, but Ian warns that research is vital to measure and understand any unexpected impacts.

As the UK pushes forwards on reducing carbon emissions, and begins to harness the power of coastal environments, the future looks exciting for carbon capture, oceans and marine ecologists like Ian!

You can listen to the full podcast from Tuesday 3 May 2022.

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Sargassum blooms are causing a coastal dead zone.

Dr Ian Hendy, Lead researcher

Sargassum blooms are causing a coastal dead zone.

Dr Ian Hendy, Lead researcher