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Marine Natural Capital - ME5115

The UK has one of the richest marine environments in Europe with a wide variety of marine species and habitats. Achieving the UK vision of ‘clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas’ and using them sustainably requires continued action to reduce human pressures, while allowing marine industries to thrive and develop.

The marine environment provides many valuable resources, goods and services known as ‘Natural Capital’. However, the application of the Natural Capital concept is relatively new in both the marine policy and economics literature. Existing initiatives such as the Natural Capital Approach developed in the terrestrial environment by the Natural Capital Committee recognise that further work is required on marine. Other key policy drivers such as the 25 Year Plan and ongoing work of the marine pioneers emphasise the concept of the marine Natural Capital Approach and its application. The lack of evidence and particularly primary valuation of resources to support the marine Natural Capital Approach is emphasised in the Defra evidence plan.

Scientific literature suggests a high intrinsic value of the marine environment and negative effects of its depletion. For example, the importance of biodiversity and its role in stabilising natural systems such as climate and weather; conservation of seascapes; assessing costs of marine litter. Unfortunately, it is very hard to put an economic value on different level of provisions for these goods and how this can affect final services now and in the future. However, it is widely accepted that if the true economic value is neglected the effects can have huge economic and social implications.

With little existing research on trade-offs between positive and negative utilisation of Natural Capital it is difficult to understand the relative effects to the economy and wider society. For this, it is important to understand better both the concept of Natural Capital (as developed for the terrestrial environment), and whether it is possible to measure and classify its components, linkages and services generated in the marine environment. This is important in order to support value for money investment and to guide both national and local decisions.
The project will address the following key questions:
• Why is it important to consider the Natural Capital Approach?
• Are existing data and frameworks fit for purpose? If not, what is required and how can this be improved?
• What are the key gaps in evidence to support the application of the Natural Capital Approach in the marine environment?
• Can an improved approach robustly aid decision makers and assess value for money associated with policy changes applied in the context of marine?
• Can important trade-offs be established, quantified and where possible integrated into policy decision-making tool?
• Where can additional primary valuation data be most usefully applied?

The overarching objective of the project is to explore how the Natural Capital Approach can be adopted in the context of marine and if so, how. This work will need to be split into two distinctive Work Phases.

The two work packages are required as follows:

Work Package 1: Review of the Natural Capital Approach and its application to marine

Work Package 2: Primary valuation of unpriced resources applicable to case studies.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : Final report Phase 1   (4174k)
• FRP - Final Report : Final report Phase 2   (2349k)
• OTH - Other : Non-technical summary   (485k)
• TPS - Two Page Summary : ME5115 Initial Two page summary   (240k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2018

To: 2019

Cost: £155,756
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Natural Environment