Scientific challenge: 

CEH scientists led the Coastal Margins chapter of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (2011). This collated information on the extent and condition of the UK’s sand dunes, saltmarsh, machair, shingle, sea cliffs and lagoons, and identified the threats facing them and the key knowledge gaps. UK National Ecosystem Assessment cover

It also started to value some of the ecosystem services these habitats provide. CEH is involved in the following work on coastal ecosystem services:

Valuing coastal carbon

CEH collated the latest information on the carbon stocks held in saltmarsh, sand dunes and machair in the UK. We worked with economists at Plymouth Marine Laboratories to value the amount of carbon likely to be lost due to erosion or conversion of coastal habitats over the next 50 years.

We have collaborated with researchers in Italy to compare biodiversity and carbon values in Italian dunes.

Graph of Carbon Stock for UK Coastal Margins
Graph of Carbon stocks (Mt Carbon) held in saltmarsh, sand dunes and machair in the UK Beaumont et al. 2014

Ecosystem Services of Shellfish Aquaculture

Image of Mussels

  • A KESS studentship with CEH, Deepdock Mussels and Bangor University is reviewing the ecosystem services provided by shellfish in the UK. The project will provide UK data on key services provided by mussels, oysters and scallops.

Valuing the contribution which coastal habitats make to human health and wellbeing

The natural environment plays an important part in the health and wellbeing of many people’s lives. Being outdoors encourages physical activity and social interaction, or can provide the opportunity for solitude and time to reflect. The natural environment has also been a rich source of art and literature and is an integral part of many cultures. There are many economic benefits too.

  • CEH is a partner in a project called CoastWEB that investigates the interconnections between coastal habitats and human health and wellbeing, focusing on the alleviation of coastal natural hazards and extreme events. The research is ambitious in its interdisciplinary scope, including art, social and environmental psychology, environmental economics, governance, policy, a suite of natural sciences, and non-academic stakeholders. It also covers a range of scales from local Welsh case study sites to UK national.

The relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem service in salt marsh and mudflat habitats

Coastal habitats are some of our most naturally dynamic ecosystems and are important places for people and wildlife. They provide valuable areas for recreation and protect coastal communities from flooding by buffering the effects of waves on flood defences. The coastline is also one of the most sensitive environments to the pressures of climate change. Salt marshes and mudflats are particularly affected by increased storminess and changes in sea level.