North Devon Marine Pioneer

The University of Plymouth is to play a significant role in a new £1.37million project to promote green growth and investment in North Devon.

The North Devon UNESCO Biosphere has won the largest green economy award nationally from the Government’s Community Renewal Fund (CRF).

It will enable a new programme of work to create great jobs for local people in northern Devon at the same time as addressing the climate and ecological emergency.

The North Devon programme has two linked elements – the Green Biosphere, focused on woodland, regenerative agriculture and agri-tech; and the Blue Biosphere, focused on offshore wind, aquaculture. marine biodiversity and ‘blue carbon’.

The University – through its Marine Institute and Sustainable Earth Institute – will contribute to both elements, and they have a strong focus on skills development and job creation as well as plans to redirect private investment into the area.

Researchers aligned to the Marine Institute have been involved for several years in the Defra North Devon Marine Pioneer, as part of the South West Partnership for Environment and Economic Prosperity (SWEEP) programme.

Through that, they have completed the UK’s first marine Natural Capital Asset Register to demonstrate the potential flows and location of habitats that support a healthy climate and multiple ecosystem service benefits.

It also identified the tools needed to determine the quantity and quality of marine and coastal habitats that support carbon sequestration.

In the new programme, they will be leading the research input into three work strands:

  • Biosphere Blue Carbon – delivering innovative habitat projects such as seagrass, saltmarsh, oyster reefs and kelp forests;
  • 3D Biodiverse Ocean Farming – seeking to reinvent UK aquaculture through innovative models which use the full water column to create multiple food crops and a rich marine ecosystem;
  • “No-Take & Harvest” – exploring the potential for Lundy’s Marine Conservation Zone to be replicated around our shorelines.
Dr Sian Rees, Associate Professor of Social-Ecological Systems, said:

“We are excited to be able to continue our natural capital research with the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere to prime investment that will benefit both environment and economy.”

The Sustainable Earth Institute’s involvement in the project will be linked to the potential of woodland to have a significant effect to the climate emergency.

Led by Dr Thomas Murphy, working as part of the Low Carbon Devon project, they will support the Biosphere Foundation with their work on forestry models, woodland enterprise zones and smart biosphere activities.

This builds on existing university research, which has shown native broadleaf trees can have a marked impact on soil’s response during extreme weather events.

It has also distilled that research into an emergency help guide for land managers, policymakers and organisations supporting native woodland creation.

Dr Paul Hardman, Manager of the Sustainable Earth Institute, added:

“We are proud to be a part of the programmes being run through North Devon UNESCO Biosphere and look forward to supporting the work on woodland carbon sequestration, which is an important part of reaching a Net-Zero Future.”

Tim Jones, Chairman of the North Devon Biosphere Foundation, said:

“This award recognises the unique Natural Capital assets that are within the biosphere designation. These include part of our treasured National Parks, some of the most important agricultural assets within Devon, and a huge marine area which includes the Isle of Lundy. Within this, there is a population of nearly 200,000 people all of whom have a relationship with the Biosphere but deserve to participate in this opportunity to improve their economic and social wellbeing. It is our biosphere’s ambition to be the lead for Natural Capital activity, regionally, nationally and internationally, this award is a significant step forward in this journey.”

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Marine Institute

Representing 3000 staff, researchers and students, the University of Plymouth's Marine Institute is the first and largest such institute in the UK. 

We provide the external portal to our extensive pool of world-leading experts and state-of-the-art facilities, enabling us to understand the relationship between the way we live, the seas that surround us and the development of sustainable policy solutions.

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Thermal image of Plymouth taken by Matthew Fox, Environmental Building Group - Special Commendation in Visions of Sustainability 2015

Sustainable Earth Institute

The Sustainable Earth Institute is about promoting a new way of thinking about the future of our world.
We bring researchers together with businesses, community groups and individuals to develop cutting-edge research and innovative approaches that build resilience to global challenges. 
We link diverse research areas across the University including science, engineering, arts, humanities, health and business.