A kelp forest of
warm-water Laminaria ochroleuca on the coast of Plymouth, UK, at low tide (Image
Credit: Albert Pessarrodona)
Researchers from the University of Plymouth are contributing to a £7million project which aims to make coastlines and communities stronger in the face of flooding, erosion and the impacts of climate change.
The Stronger Shores initiative will explore the most effective ways to use the power of nature to restore the ocean’s health while cementing a more sustainable, healthy and prosperous future for coastal communities.
The project will be centred in the North East of England and brings together a network of experts to test a range of restoration approaches, and how these will benefit communities along the coast of the North Sea.
This will include understand how any restoration interventions can reduce erosion and structural damage, help to stabilise shorelines, reduce wave impacts, protect against climate change, and extend the lifespan of man-made coastal defences.
In turn, it will then explore the best ways to improve water quality, create rich wildlife, protect against pollution, improve fisheries and provide community recreation areas.
Stronger Shores is being led by South Tyneside Council and in addition to the University of Plymouth, the partners include Newcastle University, Tees Rivers Trust, The North Sea Wildlife Trusts, Zoological Society of London and Groundwork North East & Cumbria.
It is being funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as part of the £150 million Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme, and is being managed by the Environment Agency to develop and test new approaches to help communities become more resilient to the effects of flooding and climate change.
Councillor Ernest Gibson, Lead Member for Transport and Neighbourhoods at South Tyneside Council and Chair of the Local Government Association Coastal Special Interest Group, said:
“Our coastline is one of our greatest treasures but, over the years, important natural habitats have been lost. Many areas are threatened by flooding, erosion and storms and climate change will only make this worse. If we do nothing, habitats, man-made coastal defences and communities could all suffer. That’s why we’re proud to have secured this funding for Stronger Shores, which will allow us to turn to the hidden habitats below the waves for an affordable, long-term solution.”
Researchers at the University of Plymouth are at the forefront of developing conservation policies informed by the natural assets of regions across the UK.
Since 2016, they have been involved in Defra’s North Devon Marine Pioneer programme, which led to the development of the UK’s first marine Natural Capital Asset Register.
That work has influenced conservation policies from Sussex to the Isles of Scilly, and was also instrumental in Enabling North Devon to become the UK’s first World Surfing Reserve.
Through this new project, the team from Plymouth - including Dr Sian Rees, Professor Martin Attrill, Dr Matthew Ashley, Mr Tom Mullier and Professor Melanie Austen - will work alongside academics at Newcastle University to develop research to understand the social and economic impacts of nature based restoration project.
Dr Rees, Associate Professor of Social-Ecological Systems, said:
“We are very excited to be working with Stronger Shores to develop the practical application of the Natural Capital Approach. Over many years, we have shown that nature has the potential to be a powerful tool in helping us fight pressing challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss. The findings from this research will deliver progress in enabling us to understand the role of natural and restored kelp, seagrass and oyster beds in protecting our coasts, and boosting biodiversity.”

Marine Conservation Research Group 

The Marine Conservation Research Group investigates the consequences of human activity on marine biodiversity and its ecosystem services in order to provide scientific evidence and management advice for the benefit of marine ecosystems and society. 
Within the group, there are several units working in key areas of marine conservation:
Underwater landscape, coastal