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Who Benefits From Marine Ecosystems? Major Funding for PML-Led ‘Economics Of Biodiversity’ Project

8 November 2022

The UKRI-supported ‘Sea the Value’ project is aimed at determining the economic, ecological and socio-cultural value of marine ecosystems.

Marine biodiversity - and the wider natural world - provides a host of benefits to society including sources of food for human consumption, carbon capture, extracting phosphorus and nitrogen waste, providing jobs and being fundamental to health and wellbeing. 

Yet, to date, there is no global approach to valuing natural habitats in a holistic way.

Following the UK Government Dasgupta Review, which found that biodiversity must be embedded in decision making to support nature recovery and halt biodiversity loss, a £6.4m funding package by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has been announced to support seven projects to better understand the economic value of biodiversity.

The funding - which is being provided by UKRI’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) - includes £798k of support for the PML-led ‘Sea the Value’ project.

Bringing together a unique interdisciplinary team including three research organisations (Plymouth Marine Laboratory, University of Aberdeen, University of Portsmouth), ecological and environmental economists, NGOs and an extensive international network of collaborators, the three-year project aims to:

  • Quantify the interlinkages between marine biodiversity, natural capital, and ecosystem services, taking quantity (extent), quality (condition), and resilience into consideration.
  • Determine the economic and social values associated with carbon sequestration and bioremediation of waste and apply these values to support natural capital accounting frameworks and engage real world communities in mapping social values and trade-offs.
  • Connect the ecological, economic, and social values of biodiversity to decision-making through co-design and implementation of green investment to maintain and enhance biodiversity.

The research will be focussed on two field sites: The Solent in Southern England, and the Moray Firth in Scotland. At these sites communities and organisations will be engaged in mapping values and trade-offs, and in co-developing green investments to maintain and enhance marine biodiversity. 

The lessons learned from these sites will be shared with coastal partnerships through a series of training exercises, enabling dissemination of best practice across the UK and beyond.

The project will also undertake a range of activities to train upcoming professionals in the valuation of biodiversity, transforming future UK capability in this critical area.

PML’s Professor Nicola Beaumont (Head of Science - Sea and Society), who is the ‘Sea the Value’ project lead, said:

“In recent years we’ve seen advances in how the marine environment is valued but it remains the case that a lack of understanding about how biodiversity provides benefits is preventing it from being properly integrated into public and private decision-making.

One of the key challenges that the ‘Sea the Value’ projects aims to address is ensuring we can create high quality ‘decision-grade’ data which accurately reflects not just economic but also ecological and social-cultural value. Through this project we hope to create a fit-for-purpose valuation system which will ultimately ensure marine biodiversity – and the benefits it provides – are much more clearly recognised, understood and therefore protected.”   

Speaking about the wider programme, Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair of NERC, said:

“The Economics of Biodiversity programme will help us protect our natural environment and earth’s carefully balanced ecosystems. It will build our understanding of how biodiversity is valued, increase investment and improve management of this vital natural resource.

“As our governments work to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss at COP27 and CBD COP15 conferences, this investment shows UKRI’s commitment to environmental science, building our knowledge and supporting sustainable economic growth and public wellbeing.”

The ‘Sea the Value’ project formally commenced in August 2022. Projects partners include:

  • Plymouth Marine Laboratory
  • University of Aberdeen
  • University of Portsmouth
  • Eftec
  • Daryl Burdon Ltd
  • Solent Forum (SF)
  • Moray Firth Coastal Partnership (MFCP)
  • Coastal Partnership Network (CPN)

“To detach Nature from economic reasoning is to imply that we consider ourselves to be external to Nature. The fault is not in economics; it lies in the way we have chosen to practise it.” Dasgupta Review



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